All posts by christy

#11 The History of US Drug Control Policy in the Americas | América Otherwise, September 23, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy Thornton

Though the conventional history of the U.S.-led “War on Drugs” locates the origins of this conflict in a reaction to the domestic culture of excess of the 1960s, a new book argues that international drug control efforts are actually decades older, and much more imbricated with the history of U.S. access to international markets, than we have previously thought.

This week, we talk to historian Suzanna Reiss, Associate Professor of History at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, about her book We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of US Empire, which uncovers this history by tracing the transnational geography and political economy of coca commodities–stretching from Peru and Bolivia into the United States, and back again.

The book examines how economic controls put in place during WWII transformed the power of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry in Latin America and beyond, and gave rise to new definitions of legality and illegality–definitions that were largely premised on who grew, manufactured, distributed, and consumed drugs, and not on the qualities of the drugs themselves. Drug control, she shows, is a powerful tool for ordering international trade, national economies, and society’s habits and daily lives.

You can listen to the full episode here:

#10 Seeking Justice in Afghanistan, Mexico, & Guatemala | América Otherwise September 14, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy Thornton

Today, we’re looking at places where the state and the military stand accused of heinous crimes against ordinary people—and how struggles for justice have emerged in response.

First, it was reported in late August that the US military was reopening a criminal investigation into a series of at least seventeen murders of civilians in Afghanistan—murders for which an Army Special Forces unit stands accused. In The Nation last week, reporter Matthieu Aikins revealed the story of possible attempts to cover up those crimes by the military itself. Aikins is currently currently the Schell Fellow at The Nation Institute. His reporting from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Libya has appeared in magazines like Harper’s, Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, GQ, and Wired, and his investigative work exposing war crimes in Afghanistan won him the George Polk Award and the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism.

We also look at the bombshell report released last week by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about the disappearance of 43 students in the Mexican state of Guerrero almost a year ago. The report, by an international team of experts, eviscerated the Mexican government’s official story about what happened to those students. We’re joined by celebrated author Francisco Goldman in Mexico City to learn what the report contained, and what the reactions to it have been.

In addition, Francisco Goldman has been reporting for the New Yorker on the resignation and pending prosecution of Guatemala’s president, Otto Perez Molina. Francisco explains the long history of repression and impunity in Guatemala, and what Perez Molina’s downfall means for the future of that country. Francisco Goldman is a contributing writer at, and author of many books, including 2007’s The Art of Political Murder, about the killing of Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala. His most recent book is The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle.

Originally aired on WBAI on September 14, 2015. Listen to the full episode here:

#9 Migrants & Refugees Globally: From Great Britain to El Salvador, Eritrea to Mexico | América Otherwise September 7, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy Thornton

This week, we’re continuing our coverage of ongoing migrant and refugee crises – but widening our lens a bit. Last week, we explored how to the language we use to talk about this crisis has become politicized, the way that Germany’s history of guest worker programs informs how it receives immigrants today, and how the war in Syria and its economic devastation are driving millions to leave that country.

This week, we ask how Great Britain’s reactions to the crisis have been driven by unfounded fears. We speak to sociologist Hannah Jones about her findings in a recent study that links these fears to “tough on immigration” campaigns lead by the British government. Hannah Jones is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, and author of the recent piece, “Public opinion on the refugee crisis is changing fast – and for the better.” [2:10]

We also look into another sending country, Eritrea, a northern African nation where forced military conscription and state repression are causing Eritreans to flee in droves – but not just to Europe and the Middle East. We speak to expert Dan Connell about encountering these migrants in an unlikely place: the southern Mexican town of Tapachula. Dan Connell is a founder of the organization Grassroots International, a Visiting Scholar at Boston University’s African Studies Center. His piece “Eritrean Refugees’ Trek Through the Americas,” was published in this summer’s issue of the Middle East Report. [20:07]

And we bring the attention back to migrants arriving from even closer, revisiting the conditions in El Salvador that continue to cause families to send their children north, toward the United States, to escape escalating violence. We speak to the Guardian’s Jonathan Watts, who recently reported on how a brutal conflict between rival gangs and state security forces is driving El Salvador’s skyrocketing murder rate – and how that’s driving its children from home. [40:10]

Originally aired on WBAI on September 07, 2015. Listen to the full episode here:

#8 Understanding the Migrant & Refugee Crisis in the Mediterranean | América Otherwise August 31, 2015

OAmérica Otherwise with host Christy Thorntonn today’s show, we’re looking at the ongoing crisis in Europe as thousands of people are making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

We get into the politics of what exactly to call this crisis with Al-Jazeera English online editor Barry Malone, who recently wrote about that outlet’s decision to stop using the word “migrant” in favor of the word “refugee.” Has “migrant” become a dirty word in Europe, or should it be reclaimed, as some advocates argue? [2:00]

We also go in-depth on the role of Germany in this crisis, to ask how a country that sees a historic duty to welcome refugees might still have a culture that doesn’t welcome immigrants. We speak to historian Rita Chin about how the post-war history of immigration and guest worker programs in Germany shapes that country’s reactions to the current crisis. Dr. Rita Chin is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and the author of The Guest Worker Question in Postwar Germany[17:07]

And we look at one of the countries sending the highest number of refugee abroad right now: Syria. We speak to economist Omar Dahi about what role the United States is playing in that country’s civil war, and what the economic impacts of both the war and the massive outmigration it has caused will be for Syria’s future. Dr. Omar Dahi is is an editor of the magazine Middle East Report, published by the Middle East Research and Information Project, MERIP, and a co-editor of the Syria page on the website [33:37]

Originally aired on WBAI on August 31, 2015. Listen to the full episode here:

#7 Military Trial in Peru, Contract Labor at the World Bank, and Protests in Ecuador | América Otherwise August 17, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy Thornton
On today’s show, we hear about the ongoing trial in Peru of military officials accused of perpetrating a horrific massacre of civilians 30 years ago this week. We’re joined by Professor Jo-Marie Burt, on the line from Lima, to tell us what happened at Accomarca those three decades ago, and what’s happening now, in the courtroom, as the victims seek justice.  [2:01]

We then talk to Washington Post reporter Lydia DePillis about a fascinating piece she just published about the use of contract labor at the Washington headquarters of the World Bank, where nearly 20,000 short-term contract employees perform some of that institution’s core functions. We talk about what the impact of all that contract labor is for the Bank’s work – and for what DePillis calls the Bank’s own “class divide.” [21:46]

And we’ll speak to Professor Marc Becker about a surge in protests in Ecuador against that country’s leftist president, Rafael Correa. As indigenous groups affiliated with the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, or CONAIE, mobilize against mining and drilling in their communities, Correa is accusing activists of attempting to destabilize his government. We’ll find out what the historical roots of this conflict between a leftist president and a radical social movement are, and ask where it’s going as Correa seeks a fourth term in office. [37:16]

Originally aired on WBAI on August 17, 2015. Listen to the full show here:

#6: Journalist Killed in Mexico, US Military Bases Abroad, & the TPP Talks Fail Again | América Otherwise August 10, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy Thornton

On today’s show, we look at the recent killing of Mexican photojournalist Rubén Espinosa in Mexico City. The murder shocked many in the journalism community, who considered Mexico City a safe-haven in an increasingly dangerous country for journalists. We speak to journalist Andalusia Knoll, producer of a recent documentary on the threats facing journalists in Veracruz, to learn more about who Espinosa was, and what the situation facing journalists in Mexico is like today. [1:44]

We then go in-depth on the issue of U.S. military bases overseas with David Vine, author of the new book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, out this month. Vine recently took to the op-ed page of the New York Times to argue that many of these bases should be closed, as his research has shown that they are an economic burden and a security problem for the United States. He tells us just how big the U.S. overseas base empire is, what those bases mean for security, labor, and the environment, and argues that closing them would be easier than many think. [18:20]

And finally, last week in Hawaii, what had been heralded as the “final round” of negotiations over the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership broke down again, failing to produce an agreement. The failure of the talks was celebrated by some opponents of the deal, who worry about its impact on labor and the environment, as well as its ability to override local and national laws for the benefit of private corporations. But to find out just what this latest failure means, and what’s next for the TPP, we speak to Lori Wallach, director of the Global Trade Watch program at Public Citizen. Lori argues that the fight against the TPP must continue, and details how to get involved. [39:18]

Originally aired on August 10, 2015 on WBAI. Listen to the full episode here:

#5: The Venezuelan Opposition, Chinese Stock Market Crash, and Arctic Oil Drilling | América Otherwise August 03, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy ThorntonOn today’s show, we speak to journalist Roberto Lovato about his recent piece in Foreign Policy magazine about Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo López. Lovato argues that although López’s international support relies on his image as a fighter for democracy, he has, in fact, much closer ties to the 2002 coup that tried to unseat Hugo Chávez than he has admitted. Lovato is a writer and visiting scholar at University of California Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research. [1:56]

We also look at the recent turmoil in Chinese stock markets, which have wiped out over $3.2 trillion in value — equivalent to the market capitalizations of France and Spain combined. But despite the overwhelming numbers involved, the Chinese government did not, as some western observers seemed to be hoping, suffer any kind of related collapse, and in fact, the crisis did not spread to the broader financial system. That’s because of the structure of the Chinese stock markets and banking systems, argues my guest, Sean Starrs, in a recent piece in Jacobin magazine, called “A Crash with Chinese Characteristics.” He joins us to talk about it. [17:58]

And finally we speak to journalist Arun Gupta about the recent “Blockadia” protests in Portland, Oregon. The protestors’ 36-hour action highlighted the danger to the climate and the local environment posed by drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi sea. We speak to Arun about what he saw at the protest, how arctic drilling fits into the larger changes happening in the petroleum industry, and just what those changes mean for the global economy and geopolitics. [33:13]

Originally aired on WBAI on 08/03/15. Listen to the full episode here:


#4: El Chapo’s Escape, The Iranian Nuclear Deal, and IMF Debt Relief for Greece | América Otherwise July 20, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy Thornton

On today’s show, we speak to Edgardo Buscaglia, a Senior Research Scholar in Law & Economics at the Columbia Law School and author of the book Vacíos de Poder en México, about what El Chapo’s escape from his maximum security Mexican prison reveals about the Mexican state – and US support for that country. In this interview, Buscaglia argues that one possible reason Mexico wouldn’t extradite El Chapo to the U.S. was fear of just how many Mexican politicians he’d name as collaborators. [2:00]

We also talk about the Iran nuclear deal, what it means for the future of the Iranian economy, and how it will impact the region with journalist Ali Gharib. Ali Gharib is an independent Iranian-American journalist based in Brooklyn who has written for Inter-Press Service, the Guardian, the Nation, and a host of other outlets, and he’s an expert on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. In our conversation, Gharib argues that while the deal is welcome, it also comes with increased arms sales and military aid to places like Saudi Arabia and Israel – a worrying development. [18:48]

Finally, we take an in-depth look at the IMF’s seemingly surprising call for debt relief for Greece. We speak to world-renowned economist Ha-Joon Chang to explain why the IMF wants debt relief, what it will look like, and what it means for the future of international finance, in Greece and beyond. Ha-Joon Chang is teaches economics at Cambridge University, and is the author of a number of notable books including 2002’s Kicking Away the Ladder:Development Strategy in Historical Perspective, and, most recently, Economics: The User’s Guide. In this interview, Chang argues that the IMF has learned some lessons from the failures of austerity – albeit 25 years too late. [34:30]

Originally aired on WBAI on 07/20/15. Listen to the full episode here:

#3 The Week in Latin American Relations: Brazil, Cuba & Honduras | América Otherwise July 06, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy Thornton

This week, we examine a big week in U.S.-Latin American relations. We’ll talk about the signing of a climate agreement between the United States and Brazil with Brown University professor J. Timmons Roberts, and ask if it goes far enough to make a difference for Brazil and for the world.[1:38]

We also examine what the re-opening of official diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba might mean for Cuba and for the role of the U.S. in the region with William LeoGrande, co-author of the recent book Back Channel to Cuba. [18:29]

And we get an update from Honduras, where 60,000 people marched on Friday to call for the ouster of the president of that country – though you likely didn’t hear about it on the news. We’ll speak to professor Dana Frank from Tegucigalpa to find out how the 2009 coup against Honduras’s democratically elected president, supported by then-secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is reverberating today – both in Honduras, and for the Clinton campaign. [35:29]

Originally aired on WBAI 07/06/2015. Listen to the whole show here:

#2: Debt and Democracy, from Greece to Puerto Rico | América Otherwise June 29, 2015

América Otherwise with host Christy ThorntonThis week, we’re looking at the relationship between democracy and debt. While a great deal of media attention has been focused on the ongoing negotiations between Greece’s leftist government and its European creditors, fewer people have been paying attention to a debt crisis happening within US territory, in the free associated state of Puerto Rico. Today on the show, we go in depth on both of these crises.

We speak to Aris Chatzistefanou, a Greek journalist and filmmaker who sits on Greece’s Truth Commission on Public Debt, about the referendum on the negotiations announced on Friday. [1:35]

We’re joined by Emilio Pantojas, a professor of sociology at the University of Puerto Rico, to discuss the roots of the crisis on that island, and what should be done to solve it. [14:39]

And we step back to discuss the bigger picture, including how governments accrue such debt and what we know about how previous countries have gotten out of it, with economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. [30:40]

Originally aired on WBAI on June 29 2015. Listen to the whole show here: