Democracy Now! - October 26, 2015

A new round of international talks to end the war in Syria could begin as early as this week. The four-year-old war has killed more than 300,000 people and left more than 7 million others displaced. On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry met in Vienna with the Saudi, Russian and Turkish foreign ministers to discuss the crisis. Then on Saturday, Kerry flew to Saudi Arabia to meet Saudi King Salman outside Riyadh. That same day, Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone. Lavrov has said the Kremlin wants Syria to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections, a call that comes just days after a surprise visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Moscow. Lavrov also said Russia would be ready to help Western-backed Free Syrian Army rebels—if it knew where they were. Charles Glass, former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent, has just returned from Syria and Iraq, and joins us to discuss the crisis. His latest book is titled "Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring."

In an interview on Sunday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that there were "elements of truth" to the claim that removing Saddam Hussein played a part in the creation of ISIL. "You can’t say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015," said Blair on CNN. We speak to journalist Charles Glass about his recent trip to Iraq and his new book, "Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring."

Tension is continuing to mount in Israel over a string of recent Palestinian stabbing attacks and an intense crackdown by the Israeli government. Since October 1, at least 58 Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israelis at the scene of attacks or during protests in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli police say 10 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian stabbings or shootings. Meanwhile, video has gone viral of a masked Israeli settler armed with a knife attacking Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the co-founder of the group Rabbis for Human Rights. The incident took place after Ascherman tried to film Israeli settlers setting Palestinian olive trees on fire in the West Bank village of Awarta outside of Nablus. The video shows the masked man grabbing a knife out of his back pocket, then repeatedly lunging at the 55-year-old rabbi, who was attempting to retreat. The masked man also kicked and punched Ascherman while making threatening gestures with the knife. The settler eventually ran away. We speak with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who co-founded Rabbis for Human Rights in 1988. For over a decade the group has dispatched volunteers to protect the Palestinian olive harvest.

On Saturday, thousands rallied in New York City against police brutality as part of three days of protest called "Rise Up October." Some 40 families across the country impacted by police violence participated in the event alongside scholars such as Dr. Cornel West and Chris Hedges, as well as celebrities including playwright Eve Ensler and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. We bring some of the voices from Saturday’s rally, including Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who died on February 4, 1999, in a hail of 41 police bullets as he put the key in his door. The New York Police Department’s Street Crime Unit would later be disbanded. "How many more victims were unjustly killed since Amadou Diallo?" Kadiatou Diallo said. "We can’t begin to count. I went to many funerals. I connected with many families. We’re not bitter. The law enforcement should know we are not against them. We are not against them. We are anti-police brutality."

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, activist and Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges, whose latest book is "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle," spoke Saturday at New York’s "Rise Up October" rally and march to end police violence. In his address, Hedges spoke about the effects that police violence and mass incarceration has on families. "There are husbands and wives severed, sometimes forever, from their spouses," said Hedges. "There are sisters and brothers that have been torn apart, but this morning we remember most the children, those whose mothers and fathers are locked behind bars or whose parents will never come home again, whose tiny lives have been shattered, whose childhoods have been stolen, who endure the painful stigma of loss or of having a mother or father in prison and cannot comprehend the cruelty of this world."

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