Democracy Now! - September 1, 2015

President Barack Obama arrived in Alaska on Monday for a three-day tour during which he will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Alaska Arctic. On Monday, Obama highlighted the dangers posed by climate change in the region. "Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average," Obama said. "Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States." As the Arctic region warms, the geopolitical significance of the region is growing as new areas become reachable, spurring maritime traffic and oil drilling. Resources below the Arctic ice cap are worth over $17 trillion, the rough equivalent of the entire U.S. economy. According to investigative journalist James Bamford, the region has become the "crossroads of technical espionage" as the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark battle for control of those resources. Bamford joins us to talk about his recent piece, "Frozen Assets: The Newest Front in Global Espionage is One of the Least Habitable Locales on Earth—the Arctic."

Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi Arabia of using U.S.-made cluster munition rockets in at least seven attacks in the Yemeni city of Hajjah between late April and mid-July. Dozens of civilians were killed or wounded, both during the attacks and later, when they picked up unexploded submunitions that detonated. Neither the United States, Saudi Arabia or Yemen have joined the global convention banning the use of cluster munitions. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch criticized the U.S. stance on cluster munitions. "The U.S. thinks that cluster munitions are legitimate weapons," Roth said. "The U.S. still hasn’t signed onto the landmines treaty. So, the U.S. is very much behind the rest of the world."

The first time Jeff Smith appeared on the national radar, he was the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, which chronicled his 2004 campaign for the congressional seat of the retiring Dick Gephardt. Smith narrowly lost the race to Russ Carnahan, but his surprising performance in a crowded field of 10 made him a rising star in Missouri Democratic politics. Smith was elected state senator in 2006 and served until 2009, when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy for an election law violation tied to the 2004 campaign. Smith was sentenced to one year and a day in a Kentucky federal prison. He chronicles his experience in his new book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America’s Prison Crisis, which he calls "a scathing indictment of a system that teaches prisoners to be better criminals instead of better citizens." We speak with Smith, now an assistant professor of urban policy at The New School, about what he learned in prison and his thoughts about criminal justice reform.

Full episodes of Democracy Now! can be viewed at the link: http://freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.

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