News Release Archive - 2008

Richardson and Wen Ho Lee

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ROGER HU
An Obama volunteer and Obama delegate, Hu is a spokesperson for WenHoLee.org, a grassroots effort that has sent a letter to the Obama transition team. The letter begins: “As concerned citizens, we write to express our opposition to the appointment of Bill Richardson as the Secretary of Commerce. Our objection relates to Richardson’s actions as Energy Secretary in violating Dr. Wen Ho Lee’s due process rights by prematurely terminating Dr. Lee’s employment, advancing the indictment of Dr. Lee when there was no evidence that he had engaged in espionage, and fueling suspicion about the loyalties of dedicated, hard-working Chinese-Americans. Richardson’s actions raise serious questions about his judgment and sense of fairness, requisite qualifications of a presidential Cabinet nominee. Until Richardson concedes and apologizes for his actions, we will continue to object to his nomination.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Team of Rivals or Kettle of Hawks?

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ROBERT DREYFUSS
Editor of The Dreyfuss Report and author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, Dreyfuss just wrote the piece “Still Preparing to Attack Iran: The Neoconservatives in the Obama Era,” which states: “A familiar coalition of hawks, hardliners, and neoconservatives expects Barack Obama’s proposed talks with Iran to fail — and they’re already proposing an escalating set of measures instead. … Several top advisers to Obama — including Tony Lake, UN Ambassador-designate Susan Rice, Tom Daschle, and Dennis Ross, along with leading Democratic hawks like Richard Holbrooke, close to Vice-President-elect Joe Biden or Secretary of State-[nominee] Hillary Clinton — have made common cause with war-minded think-tank hawks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the American Enterprise Institute and other hardline institutes.”
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JEREMY SCAHILL
Available for interviews beginning Wednesday evening, Scahill is author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He just wrote the piece “Barack Obama’s Kettle of Hawks,” which states: “The assembly of Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Susan Rice and Joe Biden is a kettle of hawks with a proven track record of support for the Iraq war, militaristic interventionism, neoliberal economic policies and a worldview consistent with the foreign policy arch that stretches from George H.W. Bush’s time in office to the present.

“Obama has dismissed suggestions that the public records of his appointees bear much relevance to future policy. ‘Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost,’ Obama said. ‘It comes from me. That’s my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure, then, that my team is implementing.’ It is a line the president-elect’s defenders echo often. The reality, though, is that their records do matter.

“We were told repeatedly during the campaign that Obama was right on the premier foreign policy issue of our day — the Iraq war. ‘Six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically risky to do so,’ Obama said in his September debate against John McCain. ‘Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment.’ What does it say that, with 130 members of the House and 23 in the Senate who voted against the war, Obama chooses to hire Democrats who made the same judgment as Bush and McCain?”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

WMD Report — Ignoring Root Causes?

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ABC News is reporting: “A biological or nuclear attack is likely to occur somewhere around the globe during the Obama administration or shortly thereafter, a new congressionally mandated report has warned.

“The report, titled ‘The World at Risk,’ starkly states, ‘The commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.'”

The report prominently states “The next administration must work to openly and honestly engage the American citizen, encouraging a participatory approach to meeting the challenges of the new century.”

It also prominently criticizes Iran: “Iran continues to defy its NPT [nuclear non-proliferation treaty] obligations, UN Security Council resolutions, and the international community in an apparent effort to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. It has 3,850 centrifuges spinning and more than 1,000 pounds of enriched uranium — three-quarters of what would be needed, after further enrichment, to build its first bomb.”

The report notes in its appendix: “Only India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are not members of the NPT.” It reinforces Israel’s so-called strategic ambiguity with regard to its nuclear weapons arsenal: “Since the United States exploded the first nuclear bomb in 1945, seven additional states are known or suspected to have joined the nuclear weapons club: Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, and Pakistan.”

It also maintains a positive view of the U.S.-India nuclear deal: “U.S.-Indian cooperation in the civilian nuclear power industry must not be allowed to become the catalyst of a nuclear arms race in Asia.”

JOSEPH GERSON
Gerson is director of programs for the American Friends Service Committee in New England and author of Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.

He said today: “I don’t think anyone can predict with any precision when a WMD terror attack might take place in the U.S. The more important question is to ask why the U.S. is seen as, or we think of ourselves as, a target for terrorist attack. Given the history of U.S. military hegemony — including invasions, subversion of governments, alliances with repressive monarchies and dictatorship, and invasions — to enforce U.S. privileged access to the oil of the Middle East and a number of other nations, we have angered many people whose lives have been diminished or lost as a consequence. It isn’t surprising that people want revenge. Look at how many people in the U.S. responded after 9/11.

“… Biological and chemical weapons are cheaper and easier to develop (though extremely difficult to use effectively and generally not nearly as murderous as nuclear weapons). Thus the greater danger of a biological or chemical attack.”

Regarding Israel’s “strategic ambiguity,” Gerson said: “As is now widely known, with French assistance following their disastrous 1956 invasion of Egypt, Israel has developed a nuclear arsenal which is estimated to contain between 200 and 400 of these weapons. Although President Kennedy attempted to challenge Israel’s efforts to build the A-bomb, since the Johnson years successive U.S. presidents have turned blind eyes to the arsenal whose existence the Israeli government refuses to confirm or deny. …”
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JACQUELINE CABASSO
Cabasso is executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation, which monitors nuclear weapons policy, and is a contributor to the book Nuclear Disorder or Cooperative Security?
She recently won the Sean MacBride Peace Prize. For Cabasso’s acceptance address, as well as a recent Q and A “Will Nuclear Disarmament Be on Obama’s Agenda” — see wslfweb.org.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

India: * Reaction to Attacks * Nuclear Policy

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VIJAY PRASHAD
Prashad just wrote the piece “The Fires in South Asia.” He said today: “Disoriented, the [Indian] state seeks easy solutions: more draconian legislation, more fiery rhetoric, and more warmongering. The Congress [Party]-led government is pushed from the right by the [Hindu nationalist] BJP, which seems to want an instant attack on Pakistan, a sort of Bush reaction to 9/11.

“Those in the government in charge of intelligence and security have been sacked. … In parliamentary India there is a measure of accountability from the government, in contrast to our system, where the people are accountable to the highest elected official.” Author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, Prashad is chair of South Asian history and director of international studies at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut.
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JACQUELINE CABASSO
Cabasso is executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation, which monitors nuclear weapons policy, and is a contributor to the book Nuclear Disorder or Cooperative Security? She said today: “The situation between India and Pakistan is always especially crucial because they both have nuclear weapons and because of the instability of the region. The recent U.S.-India nuclear deal, which was backed by Obama, Clinton and Biden — Biden really pushed for it — has undermined non-proliferation efforts.”

Cabasso recently won the Sean MacBride Peace Prize. For Cabasso’s acceptance address, as well as a recent Q and A “Will Nuclear Disarmament Be on Obama’s Agenda” — see wslfweb.org.

She notes that the nuclear weapons industry is attempting to prevent any meaningful disarmament efforts and is organizing the First Annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit which begins Tuesday.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Change on Economy?

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TIMOTHY CANOVA
Canova is professor of international economic law at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California.

He said today: “The selections of Larry Summers as chair of the National Economic Council and Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary are disappointing. Although President-elect Obama has referred to their ‘sound judgment and fresh thinking,’ when it came to the issue of deregulating banks and derivatives, both Summers and Geithner have shown very poor judgment and old thinking. Summers, as Treasury Secretary in 1999, was shoulder to shoulder with Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan in sweeping aside the Glass-Steagall Act provisions from 1933 which had kept commercial banking and insurance separate from securities and the casino economy. A year later, Summers was behind the legislation that was signed by Bill Clinton to shield derivatives from federal regulation. What made the deregulation of derivatives particularly outrageous was that it came on the heels of the meltdown of the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund because of its speculation in the derivatives markets.

“As a result of such deregulation, the market for derivatives has exploded in size and volatility. Credit default swaps, with a notional value of more than $50 trillion, helped bring down AIG, an insurance giant that has required more than $150 billion in taxpayer support. The market for exchange rate and interest derivatives is even bigger, at least $500 trillion in face value. What’s needed is a central clearing exchange with the authority to set capital requirements and margin requirements for credit derivatives. Geithner, as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, has been talking about such a clearinghouse for the past two years. Six months ago, Geithner promised to have such a clearinghouse in place by the end of this year. But there is no evidence that there has been much action, even though Geithner has used this time to negotiate multibillion-dollar bailouts and deals associated with the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and now Citigroup. Even with the kind of leverage the New York Fed has enjoyed, Geithner has been unable, or unwilling, to impose a central clearinghouse on derivatives. No wonder the stock market reacted favorably to the initial news of his nomination. Perhaps Wall Street is hoping that little will change with Geithner at Treasury.

“At a time when the pleas of General Motors and other carmakers for a $25 billion federal bridge loan are being closely scrutinized, Wall Street continues to enjoy the endless financial support of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, and with no strings attached. For Wall Street firms, there have been no limits on executive compensation or dividend payments, no commitments by the banks to maintain their lending levels to industry and homeowners, and unlike in Britain and elsewhere, no public officials have been appointed to their oversight boards. Hedge funds and derivatives remain unregulated, and many billions (perhaps trillions) of dollars in toxic assets remain hidden in off-balance-sheet accounting shells.

“Supporters of President-elect Obama will be tempted to embrace the experience argument, and it is true that Geithner and Summers have lots of experience at crisis management and doling out bailout funds to their Wall Street clientele. However, there are others with plenty of experience who have actually showed sound judgment and fresh thinking, including economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, James Galbraith, and Dean Baker, and financiers like George Soros. The selection of Geithner and Summers to top administrative posts rewards past failure and protects special interests. It also sends the wrong message to those who thought they were voting for change.”

Canova’s articles related to the current crisis include the piece “ The Legacy of the Clinton Bubble,” and the recent “Massive Stimulus May Be Needed to Stem Crisis” for the Wall Street Journal.

A recent video interview is available online.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Top UN Official: Apartheid by Israel

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The Jerusalem Post reports: “General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann said the international community should consider sanctions against Israel including ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ similar to those enacted against South Africa two decades ago.”

In his remarks, d’Escoto said: “Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, a continent away. I believe it is very important that we in the United Nations use this term. We must not be afraid to call something what it is.”

PHYLLIS BENNIS
Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and serves on the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.

She said today: “The humanitarian crisis in Gaza — which will not be reversed simply by Israel’s one-time loosening of the siege on Monday — has escalated largely outside public view, with Israel continuing to prevent foreign journalists and UN officials from entering, while keeping Palestinian journalists and human rights workers from leaving the besieged Gaza Strip. Father Miguel d’Escoto’s statement to the UN General Assembly on Monday helped cast some new light on that too-often hidden reality.

“But even beyond the Gaza crisis, d’Escoto’s statement was significant for his call on the United Nations to follow the lead of former Presidents Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter, along with a growing number of Jewish, Christian and other civil society organizations around the world, including the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation here in the U.S., who recognize the applicability of the term ‘apartheid’ to describe Israeli policies towards Palestinians, and call for a South African-style non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign to pressure Israel to end those illegal practices.”
More Information

Video of d’Escoto’s remarks are available here (registration required).

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Report: Spending on Bailouts 40 Times Other Crises

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SARAH ANDERSON
JOHN CAVANAGH
Anderson is director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and Cavanagh is IPS director. They are co-authors of a new report titled “Skewed Priorities: How the Bailouts Dwarf Other Global Crisis Spending.”

They write: “The financial crisis is only one of multiple crises that will affect every country, rich and poor alike.

“There’s also the global poverty crisis. Tens of millions of people across the developing world are expected to fall into extreme poverty and joblessness as a result of an economic mess originating in the United States. This is bad news for workers everywhere, as it means even more brutal competition in the globalized labor pool.

“And then there’s the climate crisis. If we don’t do something about that one, we could find out what a real meltdown feels like.

“Yet the richest nations in the world appear fixated almost entirely on the financial crisis, and specifically, on propping up their own financial firms. … [T]he approximately $4.1 trillion that the United States and European governments have committed to rescue financial firms is 40 times the money they’re spending to fight climate and poverty crises in the developing world.

“And as officials head to two upcoming global summits, there’s strong reason for concern that rich country governments may backtrack even further on their aid and climate finance commitments.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

The Economy and Transition

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CRAIG HOLMAN
Holman is government ethics lobbyist for Public Citizen. He said today: “Bolstered with enthusiastic public support, Obama has a great opportunity for breaking the grip of special interests over Washington. But his transition to the White House — marked with the appointment of several lobbyists and big-money bundlers — is cause for concern. Public Citizen will be monitoring his appointments on a web site and uncovering any links that may exist between special interests and the new Obama administration.”

MARK WEISBROT
Lawrence Summers and Timothy F. Geithner were named to Obama’s economic team today.

Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Weisbrot said today: “Geithner and Summers are credited with expertise in crisis management, but we better hope they don’t manage the current crisis like they did in East Asia, Russia, Argentina or any of the other countries that Treasury was involved in during the 1990s with their help. They helped bring on the East Asian crisis in 1997 by pressuring the governments in the region to de-regulate international financial flows, which was the main cause of the crisis. Then they insisted that all bailout money go through the IMF, and delayed aid until most of the damage was done. Then they attached damaging conditions … to the aid, leading Jeffrey Sachs to call the IMF under their watch ‘the typhoid Mary of emerging markets, spreading recessions in country after country.'”

MAX FRAAD WOLFF
Wolff, an instructor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University, is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Asia Times and The Indypendent. He said today: “The economic team taking shape alongside Obama represents the return of enterprise moderate Clinton era folks selected by other Clinton-era folks. Lawrence Summers and Timothy F. Geithner are Robert Rubin mentees and are emerging as the leading lights of yore as well as of tomorrow. Ivy League backgrounds, stints at Bretton Woods institutions IMF and World Bank and activity in or on the cusp of private sector banking define the group taking shape. All are friends, all have worked together and all have been actively involved in shaping the global financial architecture with which the world grapples today. Geithner comes over from the IMF, Council on Foreign Relations and the New York Fed. He has been more involved in charting the course for financial markets of late than either Rubin or Summers. His work in the Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG and TARP activities/inactivities is well established and has attracted much and well-deserved controversy.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

The End of Racism?

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BARBARA SMITH
Author of The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom and other books, Smith said today: “In the wake of Barack Obama’s historic election there is a lot of talk about racism suddenly becoming a thing of the past. It is true that millions of white people voted for an African American for president and in some cases overcame long-held prejudices to do so. What needs to be considered, however, is that systematic racial oppression and discrimination are built into the way many of our institutions operate. For example, because of segregated neighborhoods and court decisions that have eroded Brown v. Board of Education, school segregation of black children is at its highest level since 1968. Even a black president will not be able to change ongoing realities such as entrenched housing segregation, huge health disparities, and disproportionate poverty and unemployment overnight.”

DEDRICK MUHAMMAD
Muhammad is author of a just-released study, “The Unrealized American Dream,” from the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies. He wrote the piece “Race and Extreme Inequality,” which states: “Since 1968, the year Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the income gap between blacks and whites has narrowed by just three cents on the dollar. In 2005 the median per capita income in the United States stood at $16,629 for blacks and $28,946 for whites. At this slow rate of progress, we will not achieve income equality for 537 years. And if politicians continue to dismantle government checks on income and wealth concentration, even these modest gains may be reversed.”

Muhammad is currently in the D.C. area. During this weekend, he will be in New Orleans at the State of the Black World conference.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Bush Administration Purging Whistleblowers?

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The Washington Post on Tuesday published a piece titled “Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees: Political Positions Shifted to Career Civil Service Job.”

Parallel to this process, some whistleblowers and government workers are apparently being forced out.

MARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO
Coleman-Adebayo is a senior policy analyst and whistleblower at the EPA. She has recently received a notice of proposed removal. Congressman Chris Van Hollen has written a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, stating: “Given that Dr. Coleman-Adebayo has several complaints currently pending against the EPA … I urge you to reconsider the Notice of Proposed Removal …” Coleman-Adebayo is president of the No Fear Institute. She said today: “[The Bush administration is] embedding their foot soldiers inside the government in order to sabotage any Obama initiatives while at the same time terminating federal employees who they assume would be supportive of the new administration.” Coleman-Adebayo is in contact with many other current and former government whistleblowers.
More Information

For background and a list of other whistleblowers and others apparently being forced out, see afterdowningstreet.org

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167