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Stalemate in Bahrain

December 29th, 2012
06:16 AM ET

When large-scale protests for reform and democracy began in Bahrain nearly two years ago, the government clamped down with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf states. The clashes and the daily demonstrations continue, but largely outside the capital of Manama and the ruling al-Khalifa family has yet to introduce meaningful reforms, despite repeated promises.

Bahrain recently hosted an international security conference and renewed more such pledges. At the same time, however, the court kept one of the nation's most prominent human rights activist in jail, though it reduced one charge and slightly reduced his sentence from three years to two.

Many of the activists have had their citizenship revoked and even doctors and nurses who treated victims of government violence have been convicted of crimes against the state and given lengthy prison terms.

Bahrain is a Persian Gulf state, directly facing Iran. It is also home to the U.S. 5th Fleet, a key strategic asset in a critical neighborhood. Activists accused the United States of largely sitting on the sidelines. Christiane Amanpour recently spoke with Maryam al-Khawaja, a member of one of Bahrain's most prominent activist families, about the ongoing stalemate. She also spoke with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner who recently visited Bahrain. To see their conversation, click on the video above.

The Amanpour program has repeatedly invited Bahraini government officials onto the program, with little success so far. We did receive an email statement from the Bahraini ambassador to the United States, Houda Ezra Nonoo, which you can click here to read.

CNN’s Meredith Milstein produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Latest Episode

Stalemate in Bahrain (statement from government)

December 29th, 2012
06:04 AM ET

The Amanpour program recently covered the ongoing stalemate in Bahrain between the constitutional monarchy government and protesters (click here to watch the complete program). We repeatedly invited Bahraini government officials onto the program, with little success so far. We did receive an email statement from the Bahraini ambassador to the United States, Houda Ezra Nonoo:

The Kingdom of Bahrain has enacted many significant initiatives and reforms in the year since the BICI report was issued. These measures are aimed at improving government accountability; establishing independent offices to safeguard human rights and investigate and prosecute cases of alleged police mistreatment; the reinstatement of workers; the implementation of new training programs for police and security officials; improving transparency in law enforcement and the courts and prioritizing social and economic reconciliation, among others.

This progress was initiated in response to the recommendations in the BICI report and as a result of the government’s determination to continue ongoing reforms that began over 10 years.

These many reforms were undertaken by the Government of Bahrain despite the opposition’s refusal to discuss, collaborate, participate or contribute to the resolutions of the most important issues of our time.

The opposition is not interested in a dialog. They have refused to participate in discussions about reforms despite repeated invitations. Members of Parliament who disagreed with the government have resigned rather than worked for change.

The nightly demonstrations in the street have become violent affairs, more like riots than peaceful protests. There has been unnecessary loss of life and property because of this violence. This violence has adversely affected lives of security forces and citizens, public and private property, as well as the progress of reform and reconciliation.

Ongoing reforms by the Government of Bahrain stem out of our commitment to consolidate the rule of law and reinforce human rights.

Filed under:  Bahrain

Egypt’s Jon Stewart getting laughs amidst turmoil

December 21st, 2012
01:34 PM ET

By Samuel Burke and Claire Calzonetti, CNN

For years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been one of the most influential shows on American television.

Similar programs have popped up all over the globe, and now it’s Egypt’s turn.

Bassem Youssef is the host of "Al Bernameg,” (“The Program”), and you don’t have to speak Arabic to see the similarities between Stewart and Yousef. Their studios and even their mannerisms look the same.

A trained heart surgeon, Youssef started the satirical show from his apartment and posted his work on YouTube. It became so popular that a major Egyptian channel picked it up.

Youssef is not scared to take on anybody, even Egypt`s new president, Mohamed Morsy, whom Youssef dubbed “SuperMorsi” in a recent program.  FULL POST

Filed under:  Egypt • Latest Episode

How to jump-start a movement: changing U.S. gun culture

December 20th, 2012
05:28 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Want to change American gun culture? Ask Candace Lightner.

Thirty years ago, she did more than almost anyone else to change another seemingly entrenched aspect of American culture: drunk driving.

When her 13-year-old daughter was struck and killed by a drunk driver, there was a cavalier attitude towards driving under the influence.

“Unlike gun violence, which has always been abhorred, drunk driving was joked about, talked about, accepted,” Lightner told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Thursday. “I called it the only socially acceptable form of homicide in this country.”

Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – her first office was in her daughter’s bedroom – and became a fierce advocate for change.

“My first thought was to protect my children and anyone else from seeing this happen,” she said. “My second thought was to punish the man who was responsible for the crime. The third thought actually was to change the system that I felt allowed this man to continue to drink and drive.”

Lightner said she, from the very beginning, had a broad strategy for her campaign. She worked on every level of American society, from neighborhood groups to the president, Ronald Reagan, encouraging them to form task forces and change laws.

For the advocates of change in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Lightner distilled four critical elements from her fight: passion, practicality, public support, and an appeal to personal accountability.

Activists already have the passion and public support, she said, though they must seize the momentum of support before it inevitably fades. The practicality, she said, “is hard to understand in the beginning.”

As she successfully lobbied her governor at the time, Jerry Brown, and President Reagan to organize drunk driving task forces, she encouraged them to bring all stake holders to the table.

The alcohol industry was vehemently opposed to raising the drinking age to twenty one, she said, but “if you can get them to agree to most of it, you will get [the initiatives] passed, and you can move forward. But you need everybody involved.”

The NRA, Lightner admits, is a more formidable foe than the alcohol industry, which had no inherent stake in allowing people to drink and drive.

But allowing such easy access to guns is “like leaving your [car] keys around the house when you have an alcoholic in the home,” she said.

As for President Obama’s promise to “pull together real reforms right now,” Lightner was skeptical.

“I honestly believe that we need to do much more,” she said. “I’ve heard wonderful suggestions on this show and other shows over the past few days – they’re going to go into the [ether]. They’re not going to go anywhere, unless you get all of these people together and you actually make a plan to adopt these solutions.”

CNN's Ken Olshansky produced this story for television.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode

How moms can stop America’s gun violence

December 19th, 2012
05:03 PM ET

By Samuel Burke and Lucky Gold, CNN

Could a grass roots movement change America's permissive gun laws in the wake of the massacre of six- and seven-year-olds?

It happened thirty years ago, when a grieving mother named Candy Lightner turned her anguish into action and created Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or “MADD”.

She did that in 1980, just days after she buried her 13-year-old daughter Cari. MADD’s first office was Cari's bedroom.

From there she launched a movement that changed the way Americans and America’s laws treat drunk driving. And it soon spread to the rest of the world. MADD now has 600 chapters in all fifty states.

The result?

Since 1991, drunk driving deaths have been cut by almost 40%. And for the first time on record, the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths dipped below ten thousand.

The loss of one child helped change America’s drinking culture.

Will the loss of twenty young lives mark a sea change when it comes to tolerating military style weapons on America's streets?

The risk of daring to disagree with the NRA

December 19th, 2012
04:59 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

Tennessee lawmaker Debra Maggart was a lifetime member of America’s most powerful gun lobby, the National Riffle Association.

She had an A+ rating with the group and even supported allowing guns in bars.

But when Maggart decided not to back a bill allowing guns in cars – even on properties where the owners did not want guns- the NRA turned against her.

The group did everything in its power to ensure her election defeat.

They succeeded.


Filed under:  Gun Control • Latest Episode

Could the NRA become obsolete?

December 19th, 2012
04:54 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

The NRA might run the risk of being obsolete, according to Eliot Spitzer.

The former New York governor says America's most powerful gun lobby has two choices: Either it can "revert to their normal posture ... and refuse to compromise," Spitzer told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview Monday. Or, he believes, the NRA can pivot: remain strong gun advocates, but encourage their membership in to help limit certain gun rights.

If they do not, Spitzer believes the organization runs the risk of becoming politically irrelevant and their membership might drift away.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Gun Control • Latest Episode

Tom Brokaw: Risks and rewards from warzone reporting

December 18th, 2012
05:15 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

Veteran anchor Tom Brokaw kept tabs on his colleague, Richard Engel, from the first days of his captivity in Syria, he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

Engel was freed on Monday after five days of captivity in Syria, where he was reporting for NBC.

Engel believes his kidnappers were members of the Shabiha – the militia allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – and that his captors hoped to exchange him and his team for Iranian agents held by the Syrian opposition.

It is the nightmare that shadows all journalism organizations and reporters who cover the world's danger zones.

For more than two decades Tom Brokaw was the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News. He oversaw Engel from his first days at the news network.

Brokaw said he was overjoyed when Engel was released, but added that there is an extremely delicate balance between a reporter’s safety and the important work of doing journalism on the front lines.

“Now that Richard is out, I said one of the after-action evaluations we have to do is: What are the risks and what are the rewards for these assignments,” Brokaw told Amanpour, “But at the same time you’ve got to get on the ground to find out what is going on.”

The Committee to Protect Journalist says this was one of the deadliest years for journalists: Sixty seven have been killed covering stories this year.

Filed under:  Journalism • Latest Episode

America’s news anchor on gun violence

December 18th, 2012
05:15 PM ET

America’s news anchor, veteran journalist Tom Brokaw, is “enraged” by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour Brokaw pointed out that other recent incidents – this year’s shootings at a movie theater in Colorado and Sikh Temple in Wisconsin – did not even break the waterline in the presidential debates this year. But he believes this latest massacre is a tipping point for the United States and its gun culture.

Filed under:  Gun Control • Latest Episode

Getting a gun in Japan

December 18th, 2012
11:40 AM ET

In Japan, you cannot buy a handgun, much less an assault rifle. In fact, even off-duty police officers are banned from carrying guns.

You can buy a shotgun or an air rifle, but it is not easy:

  • First, you have to take a class and a written exam.
  • Then there's a skill test at a shooting range
  • Next is a drug test
  • Then a mental evaluation.
  • Assuming you pass all those tests, you file with the police, who then run a background check.

No wonder Japan has one of the lowest gun ownership rates in the world.

But does it work?

In 2008, the U.S. had 12,000 gun-related murders. Japan had 11. More than double that number were killed in the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Filed under:  Gun Control • Latest Episode
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