To The Point

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There’s an intermediate point between Othello, who kills Desdemona and asks questions later, and Hamlet, who never gets around to doing anything until he leaves the stage full of dead people. I’m afraid if President Bush was more of an Othello, President Obama has been more of a Hamlet and we need someone in between.
Feisal Istrabadi, former Ambassador of Iraq to the United Nations, gets Shakespearean about Iraq on today’s To the Point.
My conclusion was that Edward Snowden was a man interested in helping the US, not helping himself.

James Bamford on Edward Snowden on today’s To The Point.

(Listen to the interview with Bamford here)

 Listen to the interview with Radley Balko on “To the Point”

Images of protests in Ferguson, MO show police officers dressed like soldiers, in full riot gear facing off with citizens. They wear all camouflage, Kevlar vests and hide their faces under helmets. Tear gas and rubber bullets have been fired. It looks like war, but the standoff is in the Missouri suburb where Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man, was shot and killed by a police officer last Saturday. 

This trend toward militarization in local law enforcement in the United States has been developing over the last 30-35 years, explains Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.” The drug war and the war on terror have exacerbated it and it’s not just militarization in terms of the gear, “but also in the mindset in how police officers view themselves,”  says Balko, speaking on “To the Point”. The St. Louis County police department confirmed to Balko that every warrant is issued by a SWAT team.

“In some ways it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get confrontation when you go in expecting it,” says Balko. Particularly in the case of Ferguson, where the demonstrations are against the police department. Here they see a “robotic manifestation of everything they’re protesting against,” he says. “When you discourage both sides from seeing one another as human beings, you set the stage for violence.”

The response to demonstrators during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests helped create this template for protest preparation. The WTO protests, which started out peacefully, turned violent when the police decided to fire teargas on demonstrators who were trespassing.  “The police chief at the time, Norm Stamper, says today that it was the biggest mistake of his career,” explains Balko, because “Darth Vader gear” became the norm.  

“Protest is people basically expressing their right to free speech and free assembly, and when the default response is ‘we are expecting violence, we are expecting confrontation,’ that has a chilling effect on free speech,” says Balko.

Of course, there’s also the issue of race. Ferguson, MO is 67 percent black while the police department is overwhelmingly white,  52 out of 55 police officers in the department are white. “When a community doesn’t see itself reflected in its police force, it’s more likely to view the police as an occupying force,” says Balko. “If the police don’t see themselves reflected in the people they serve, they are not likely to consider themselves part of that community, and instead they’re likely to see themselves as enforcers.”   


We’re trying to push for a unity government because even General Petraeus said the last thing we want is to be viewed in that part of the world as siding with the Shias again against the Sunnis.
Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration, talking about Iraq on today’s To the Point.

(Photo: Panorama of the Square)

Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the bloody military crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Will Chinese citizens be marking the occasion or will government censors scrub out any discussion of the events of June 4th?

New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos lived in China from 2005 to 2013. He told To the Point’s Warren Olney that many Chinese have only a vague understanding of what happened 25 years ago, but it will be discussed around dinner tables.

“Sometimes we imagine that it’s just this blank spot in their understanding, and actually it’s a little more interesting,” Osnos says. “They know there was — as it’s often described in Chinese history — ‘turmoil.’ There was a disturbance and what they’ve been taught in school is: Had those events turned out differently had there not been a crackdown by the military that China’s economic gains would have been impossible.”

Government censors have already started to isolate code words people are using to talk about Tiananmen Square and blocking them, Osnos said. The words “fire” and “troubles” for instance.

This “cat and mouse game” between Internet users and the Central Publicity Department (also called the Central Propaganda Department) is a major part of Osnos’ fascinating new book “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in new China.”

“At one point a couple years ago, I noticed that one of the code words people were using was ‘the truth.’ So all of a sudden you got this very odd message if you tried to search for “the truth.” You got a message that said ‘Information about the truth is currently unavailable.’”

Osnos said that’s just one of many examples where technological growth has outpaced political change. He tries to tell the story of this “warp speed transformation” through the lives of young bloggers, ordinary workers, dissident artists and millionaire entrepreneurs.

One of his subjects is Gong Haiyan, who founded the Chinese version of Osnos visited her palatial home after she earned $77 million by taking her company public.   

But even her online dating clients tell the story of “New China,” Osnos said. You just have to look at the very specific demands they can make about the height, romantic history and salary prospects of their potential dates.

“After all this time in which you couldn’t demand anything in China — you didn’t deserve to demand anything as an individual — all of a sudden you can be incredibly demanding. And if you think about what that does to a country, to a society, and ultimately to a government that’s a transformative effect.”

- Evan George, producer “To the Point”

It is a question of what else are you going to do? The choice is this or nothing and if you chose nothing, Americans sometimes die.
Former White House security aid Richard Clarke on the use of DRONES on today’s “To the Point”
Look, Democrats are not joined at the hip. We all represent different states, different values, different economies, and we don’t march in lockstep. And they’re gonna fight for their position, I’m gonna fight for mine, and that’s fine. I just think it shows their independence. They’re terrific and we don’t agree on this issue but we agree on others. You can’t make politics the reason why you approve this pipeline because so many miseries follow this pipeline from the excavation to the transportation.
Senator Barbara Boxer on the Keystone XL pipeline. More on today’s To the Point. 
(Photo Credit: Perdelsky/Wikimedia Commons)
More children than ever before are trying to cross the US-Mexico border, to escape violence back home, especially in Central America.

While the number of illegal bordering crossings is at a 40-year low, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of children being stopped by Border Patrol along the US Mexico border.

In fact, government officials estimate that in fiscal year 2014, which ends in Setpember, at least 60,000 children will be apprehended as they try to enter the country illegally. That’s 10 times the number of children stopped only three years ago.

Most of the children are from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Most are fleeing the increasing gang violence and poverty that is plaguing their communities. Most are trying to reunite with a parent or a family member in the US.

Sonia Nazario is familiar with these stories. Her 2006 book, “Enrique’s Story,” which was based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning series Nazario wrote for the Los Angeles Times, was recently updated. It tells the story of Enrique, a Honduran boy who makes the dangerous trek alone to reunite with his mother in the US. “Many of these kids have no money to take this journey, so they do it the only way they can, which is gripping for dear life to the tops and sides of these freight trains travelling up the length of Mexico,” Nazario says. 

Nazario says jumping on and off those box cars isn’t the only dangerous part of these sorts of journeys. The Mexican drug cartels often control the tops of these trains, where the children ride. “They’re kidnapping 18,000 Central Americans every year, making their way north through Mexico and they prefer children,” Nozario explains. “These kids are carrying the number of a relative in the US and they can extort these relatives for money, for $3000 to $5000. And if you don’t pay, they’ll kill the children.”

Nazario says the trauma doesn’t stop there for many of the children — the ones who get caught. Once stopped by Border Patrol, the children areed in a detention center and, ultimately, must stand before an immigration judge.

Nazario recalls seeing a 3-year-old, clutching a teddy bear, standing before a judge without even a lawyer at the toddler’s side. Nazario is on the board of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a non-profit organization that has created a network of more 6000 lawyers who represent these children pro-bono.

KIND President Wendy Young says something must be done policy wise that recognizes these children as “Children first. Immigrants second”

Soylent is a new Silicon Valley food replacement. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t taste good. Here, Warren Olney interviews Brian Merchant, senior editor of Motherboard, who lived on it for 30 days.