Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • Sen. Al Franken: Media Mega-Mergers and FCC Rollback of Net Neutrality Threaten Democracy


    Major developments in recent days could shape the nation’s media landscape for years to come. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission advanced a proposal that critics say threatens net neutrality, the concept of a free and open Internet. The new rules could allow Internet "fast lanes" where companies pay providers for faster access to consumers. That sparked a wave of protest from opponents who say the rules hand too much power to the major companies who can afford to shell out, consolidating their control at the expense of smaller competitors and consumers’ monthly bills. Similar concerns have been raised about a merger deal struck over the weekend. The telecom giant AT&T has agreed to buy satellite television operator DirecTV in a nearly $50 billion deal. The move comes just months after Comcast announced plans to merge with Time Warner Cable. We are joined by one of the leading voices on Capitol Hill challenging media consolidation, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

  • Too Big to Jail? Credit Suisse Bank Pleads Guilty to Decades of Tax Evasion, But Execs Avoid Prison


    European banking giant Credit Suisse has pleaded guilty to helping American clients avoid paying taxes by concealing assets in illegal, undeclared bank accounts — becoming the largest bank to plead guilty to a criminal charge in 20 years. As part of the plea deal, Credit Suisse will pay about $2.6 billion in penalties and hire an independent monitor. But the bank will not be required to turn over the names of the Americans who used the bank to evade taxes. In addition, no senior Credit Suisse executives will face jail time, and the bank will be allowed to continue operating in the United States. According to The New York Times, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted last week to grant Credit Suisse a temporary exemption from a federal law that requires a bank to hand over its investment-adviser license in the event of a guilty plea. We speak to James Henry, former chief economist at McKinsey & Co., now a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network and senior fellow at the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment.

    Photo Credit: flickr.com/dalenapier

  • As Another Major Bank Avoids Jail, Occupy Wall Street Protester Cecily McMillan Gets 3-Month Term


    While no Credit Suisse executives will be heading to jail for facilitating widespread tax evasion, Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan has been sentenced to three months in jail and five years of probation. McMillan was arrested in March 2012 as protesters tried to re-occupy Zuccotti Park. She was convicted of deliberately striking an officer with her elbow. McMillan says she swung her arm instinctively after being grabbed in the right breast from behind. Facing up to seven years in prison, McMillan’s case sparked national outcry and pleas for leniency — even from a majority of the jurors who initially found her guilty. We hear from a group of McMillan’s supporters who spoke outside the courthouse on Monday following her sentencing, and speak to two guests: Ryan Devereaux, a reporter with The Intercept who covered the Occupy protests, and James Henry, a lawyer and an economist.

  • Snowden Docs Reveal NSA, DEA Teamed Up to Record Every Cell Phone Call in Bahamas


    A new report reveals the National Security Agency is recording every cellphone call made in the Bahamas, even though the United States has said the Caribbean nation poses "little to no threat" to Americans. The story is based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden that describe a classified program called SOMALGET, which was put in place by the NSA without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the news website The Intercept reports the agency seems to have obtained access through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. One NSA document says "the overt purpose" for recording calls in the Bahamas is "for legitimate commercial service." But the same document adds: "Our covert mission is the provision of SIGINT," or signals intelligence. Documents released by Snowden show the system is part of a broader program known as MYSTIC, which also monitors the telephone communications in Mexico, the Philippines and Kenya, as well as one other country — which The Intercept says it is not naming in response to government concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. We speak to the story’s lead reporter, Ryan Devereaux.

    Photo Credit: flickr.com/SeeBeeW

  • Remembering Historian Vincent Harding, Who Drafted Dr. Martin Luther King’s Anti-Vietnam War Speech


    We end today’s show remembering Vincent Harding, the historian, author and civil rights activist who died Monday at the age of 82. He was a friend and speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and co-wrote King’s famous antiwar address, "Beyond Vietnam." Speaking on Democracy Now! in 2008, Vincent Harding talked about the speech. "King saw the natural connection between what was happening to the poor in the U.S.A., why young men and women were rising up in anger, frustration, desperation, saw that action as deeply related to the attention that the country was paying to the devastation it was doing in Vietnam," Harding said. "And so, King was actually trying to bring the country together to sense the relationship between its sickness at home to the sickness of its policy overseas."