News Release Archive - 2011

Christianity and Occupy Wall Street

BLASE BONPANE,  ooa at igc.org
Director of the Office of the Americas, Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala and has written five books including “Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution” and “Civilization is Possible.” His latest book is “Imagine No Religion: An Autobiography.”

He said today: “I fully agree with Chris Hedges when he says that the Occupy movement is manifesting the Beatitudes. It’s similar to the movement of early Christianity, where all things were shared in common. The Romans made it illegal to be a Christian, punishable by death. The Romans know that it was not possible to serve empire and follow the way taught by the carpenter of Nazareth and the Romans were quite logical. The way and empire are not compatible. The Christians even refused to serve in the Roman military. So they were hunted down and fed to the lions. This basically continued until the Emperor became a Christian and the Council of Nicaea was established in the fourth century. Imperial Christianity followed. This led to Crusades, Inquisitions and conquistadors. …

“This is a nonsectarian movement that is based on the fruits of the spirit. … Hedges calls on religious groups to give real support to the OWS movement, including shelter. He connects the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount with the Occupy movement. Hedges says the movement will revitalize traditional Christianity in the U.S. or signal it’s moral, social and political irrelevance:

“The Occupy movement is clearly demonstrating the legacy of the warfare state, ‘war on earth and bad will to anyone who differs with the One Percent.’ And now the international Occupy movement is calling for the traditional peace on earth and good will to all people. By contrast, American exceptionalism has become a religion for many of our citizens, especially those who use ‘Christianity’ as a cloak for malice and nationalism.”

Alleged WikiLeaks Source Bradley Manning Getting Rigged Trial, Supporters Charge

JEFF PATERSON, via Zack Pesavento, press at bradleymanning.org
Paterson is a veteran and co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. He said: “Military officials are continuing their star chamber prosecution after abusing Bradley Manning of his rights for 18 months. The investigating officer is not only biased to produce an outcome that is favorable to his employer at the Justice Department — he’s under pressure from his Commander-in-Chief, who has already placed undue influence on this case. … It’s clear that the administration never had any intention of giving Bradley Manning a fair hearing. It appears that only their witnesses will be examined. Only their evidence will be considered — and they will exercise total control over what information is available to the press. The administration’s continuing retaliation against PFC Manning increasingly undermines their credibility on civil and human rights.” See updates about the court proceeding at: www.bradleymanning.org

For critical background, see:

Daniel Ellsberg, source for the Pentagon Papers, recently defended Manning in an interview: “My trial was ended because of gross governmental misconduct against me under President Nixon. This court-martial should be ended now for exactly the same reason. There has been gross, illegal conduct against Bradley Manning in the form of his incarceration for these many months without trial. And that’s one of several reasons why this trial is a travesty.”

“Bradley Manning Heads For Trial; No One Charged For Murdered Civilians,” which focuses on the “Collateral Murder” video, which Manning is accused of making public:

“Iraq refuses to extend U.S. military diplomatic immunity after WikiLeaks exposed crimes”

“The First WikiLeaks Revolution?” about how Manning’s leak to WikiLeaks helped spark the Tunisian uprising, leading to uprisings in other countries.

Note to producers: possible musical intro is David Rovics’ “Song for Bradley Manning”

U.S.-Backed Egyptian Military Killing Pro-Democracy Protesters

The Egyptian military is denying charges of brutalizing civilians. The Daily Mail webpage features video of the Egyptian military dragging and beating a woman — a video that had over 2 million views on YouTube.

The video, “Martyrs of the Egyptian Revolution,” just had English subtitles added.

JIHAN HAFIZ, fahema22 at gmail.com
REED LINDSAY, reedlindsay at yahoo.com
Hafiz and Lindsay are Cairo correspondents for The Real News Network. The Egyptian military is reportedly targeting media and Lindsay was hit with a rock and had six stitches in recent attacks. See Hafiz’s most recent report, “Battle Rages in Cairo as ‘Thugs’ and Army Attack Protesters.”

Hafiz said today: “The military council’s recent denial of brutalizing its people, one month after 40 Egyptians were killed in violence, has enraged the people still fighting government forces in Tahrir. The protesters’ ultimate goal remains the removal of what they call a fascist and violent regime.

“The first press conference by the military junta since fighting broke out Thursday evening was shocking on a number of levels. The general told the media no live ammunition was used, called the demonstrators counter-revolutionaries and said journalists were not attacked and arrested by the army. The integration video of beaten-up teenage protesters was broadcast on state TV during the press conference. In what seemed like forced confessions, the teenage boys said they were given money by an underground network to vandalize government buildings and attack the army. The junta’s spokesman kept to the government line of external forces and inflammatory media propaganda being the reason for the violence, calling protesters drug-abusing thugs.

“Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters remain in Tahrir, defiant in the face another violent attack. Activists and medics report government spies roaming around people organizing and random arrests in the surrounding downtown area.”

SHERIF GABER,  sgaber at gmail.com
Gaber recently graduated from law school at the University of Texas at Austin and, back in his native Egypt, has been active with the group No Military Trials for Civilians. He said today: “It’s primarily the army that’s doing the attacking, though the police forces have joined in some recent attacks. Some are saying that it’s the army verses parliament, but many of the protesters see the parliament as an extension of the military rule. There’s been a totally unwarranted amount of violence against demonstrators and their occupied spaces. The military has given a complete denial of any wrongdoing, contradicting every fact, every video that’s out there. There are paid thugs from the regime beating people, it’s beginning to smell a lot like fascism. The regime put up four concrete walls in Cairo…” Gaber was recently featured in the IPA news release “Egypt: U.S. Backing ‘Counter-Revolution.'”

Also see the videos:
Testimony of Aboudi, the young man who was viciously beaten by the army on Dec. 16, sparking the violence that followed.

Interview with protester Ismail, who works in a pharmaceutical company, with English subtitles.

North Korea After Kim Jong-Il

Father and SonCHRISTINE AHN, christineahn at mac.com,
Ahn is executive director of the Korea Policy Institute and a member of Korean Americans for Fair Trade. She said today: “While Kim Jong Il’s death comes as a great shock, his illness since 2008 has long been reported in the media, and had set in motion succession plans for Kim Jong-Eun, his youngest son believed to be in his late 20s, to assume leadership. For the past two years Kim Jong-Eun accompanied his father at all major official gatherings, including a visit to China last year where he apparently received the support of the government there.

“While many speculate that Kim Jong-Il’s passing will lead to political instability, what is clear is that the succession plan has strong internal support. The succession was formalized at the Worker’s Party conference in September 2010, with the support of experienced leaders from the Worker’s Party and the military.

“Kim Jong-Il’s death comes ironically just as tensions in U.S.-North Korea relations appear to be easing, as a result of agreements reached this weekend in Beijing. It is expected that the the United States will soon announce that it has agreed to send 240,000 tons of food aid to North Korea in exchange for North Korea’s agreement to suspend work on its nuclear enrichment program. This is the first significant diplomatic breakthrough in four years towards engagement between the two countries, hopefully to be followed by many more leading to easing of tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, and between North and South Korea.

JOHN FEFFER, johnfeffer at gmail.com
Feffer is author of The Future of U.S.-Korean Relations and co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He just wrote the article “Two Leaders, Two Deaths” about Kim Jong Il and Czech leader Vaclav Havel who also just died.

Feffer said today: “Of course, it’s very difficult to predict what will happen in North Korea. I’m sure that government officials in Washington and Seoul are meeting now to debate precisely this issue. It was generally accepted that Kim Jong Il was not in peak health but that he had recovered somewhat from his earlier difficulties. So his death comes as a surprise. We all expected that he would make it at least until his birthday (February 16) and his father’s birthday (April 15), when the next steps in the succession would have likely taken place. Still, he himself knew that he didn’t have a lot of time left. So that was why he had already begun to accelerate the succession process for his son, Kim Jeong Eun.

“Is Kim Jeong Eun ready to take over? Probably not. Most analysts expect that Jang Song Thaek will be the power behind the throne. The military will remain the most powerful and effective institution in North Korean society. Pyongyang will take pains to demonstrate that Kim Jong Il’s death will not herald political upheaval.

“Rather than wait for North Korea to formulate its post-Kim Jong Il policy, the United States and South Korea should take this opportunity to make an overture to the new leadership in Pyongyang. They should move forward quickly on food assistance and on setting up another round of nuclear negotiations. The North Korean government may well fall back on its most conservative impulses at a time of unexpected transition. But whatever support there is for more dramatic reform inside the Pyongyang elite, the leadership in Washington and Seoul should think creatively about how to encourage those tendencies through proactive policy offers.

Congressional Deal on Backs of D.C. Residents

The Washington Post reports on the current spending package: “Social conservatives won a ban on government-funded abortions in Washington, D.C., and restored a longstanding ban on funding for needle exchange programs used to prevent the spread of HIV. But efforts to take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood failed, as expected.”

ANISE JENKINS, anisej at hotmail.com
Jenkins is with the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition (Free D.C.), which advocates for D.C. Statehood and an end to the federal government having power over local policy rather than the people of the city having such authority. She said today: “At a time when new infections of HIV/AIDS in D.C. are finally decreasing from rates equivalent to Haiti and other so-called ‘third world cultures.’ indicating that measures like the needle-exchange programs are having a positive effect, the U.S. Congress again is proving that it could care less whether D.C. residents live or die. Election time is coming up and conservatives on both sides of the aisle again choose to ride the backs of D.C. residents to the grave, if necessary! The people of D.C. have got to organize, mobilize, educate and agitate until our Congressional masters stop playing such deadly games. The attack on women’s rights is also a game of death — low income women should have the same choice as those who can afford safe abortions…”

The Iraq War Disaster

RAED JARRAR, jarrar.raed at gmail.com
Jarrar is an Iraqi-American blogger and political analyst based in Washington, D.C. He said today: “Millions of Iraqis are celebrating the U.S. withdrawal this month, in what is widely viewed as a condemnation of the U.S. military involvement in Iraq. This is especially true with the final attempt by the U.S. government to maintain troops under NATO being rejected by the Iraqis. While President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and other U.S. officials are trying their best to make the U.S. involvement in Iraq sound like a success, the vast majority of Iraqis see the 20 years of war with the U.S. as a major disaster that has destroyed their country.

“There is no victory and no victors in the 20-year war. Except for a few war profiteers, everyone has lost. The U.S.-Iraqi war that started in 1990 has destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and damaged the Iraqi social fabric. Iraq is far from having a functional democratic government. It is the fourth most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International, and Baghdad is the worst city in the world according to Mercer’s 2011 Quality of Living rankings. One million Iraqis have been killed in the last eight years alone, and another 5 million displaced. Millions of others have been injured and traumatized for life. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have been killed and wounded, and hundreds of thousands are back home with mental injuries. Iraq and the U.S. lost hundreds of billions of dollars because of the conflict.

“While ending the U.S. military occupation is a step in the right direction, the U.S. will continue its intervention in Iraq through 16,000 State Department personnel — half of whom are armed mercenaries. Downsizing the U.S. State Department’s mission in Iraq is very important to insure a balanced bilateral relationships is built on mutual respect. There is no reason for the United States to have a larger mission in Iraq than the Iraqi diplomatic mission in the U.S., which is estimated to consist of a few dozen employees.

“Today’s withdrawal is great news for the millions of Iraqis and Americans who have opposed this war all along. But ending the occupation does not end the U.S. moral and legal obligations to compensate Iraq and Iraqis for the crimes and mistakes committed in the last two decades. In addition, holding U.S. officials who caused this mess legally accountable will help achieve U.S.-Iraqi reconciliation, and it will send a strong message to future U.S. politicians that they will be held accountable.”

America Beyond Capitalism

GAR ALPEROVITZ, via John Duda, jduda at democracycollaborative.org,
KEANE BHATT, keane at democracycollaborative.org
THOMAS HANNAH, tmhanna at democracycollaborative.org

Alperovitz, author of the just-released new edition of America Beyond Capitalism wrote an op-ed titled “Worker-Owners of America, Unite!” published in today’s New York Times.

The piece states: “A mere 1 percent of Americans own just under half of the country’s financial assets and other investments. America, it would seem, is less equitable than ever. But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model.

“Some 130 million Americans now participate in the ownership of co-op businesses and credit unions. More than 13 million Americans have become worker-owners of more than 11,000 employee-owned companies, six million more than belong to private-sector unions. …

“If such cooperative efforts continue to increase in number, scale and sophistication, they may suggest the outlines, however tentative, of something very different from both traditional, corporate-dominated capitalism and traditional socialism. …

“These efforts are minor compared with the power of Wall Street banks and the other giants of the American economy. On the other hand, it is precisely these institutions that have created enormous economic problems and fueled public anger. In 2009 a Rasmussen poll reported that Americans under 30 years old were ‘essentially evenly divided’ as to whether they preferred ‘capitalism’ or ‘socialism.’

“A long era of economic stagnation could well lead to a profound national debate about an America that is dominated neither by giant corporations nor by socialist bureaucrats. It would be a fitting next direction for a troubled nation that has long styled itself as of, by and for the people.”

Bhatt and Hannah are researchers for Alperovitz who are also available for interview.

Alperovitz’s is also a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and a founder of the Democracy Collaborative. His op-ed, “Worker-Owners of America, Unite!“.

Protester Time’s “Person of Year” — As Congress Votes to Curtail Rights

SHAHID BUTTAR, via Amy E. Ferrer, media at bordc.org
Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, which is organizing a news conference today at the National Press Club on the National Defense Authorization Act. He said today: “By naming ‘the protester’ as its ‘Person of the Year,’ Time magazine recognized the immense value of everyday people raising their voices to share their concerns with their neighbors and elected leaders. That recognition is timely in the U.S., with the anniversary of the Bill of Rights looming tomorrow, alongside a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act and its draconian provisions for indefinite and arbitrary military detention for U.S. citizens — and quite likely activists, in particular, given the various ways in which non-violent protest have been treated as terrorism by our federal, state and local governments. … The NDAA would give the U.S. military the power to imprison U.S. citizens indefinitely and without trial or any proof that they committed a crime. The NDAA threatens the First Amendment, as well as the Fifth and Sixth, and removes the judiciary from its constitutional role. It is blatantly unconstitutional and should be rejected by the White House and Congress to reflect the transpartisan concerns of the American people.”

Grassroots coalitions in more than a dozen cities are holding anti-NDAA Bill of Rights Day events this week, including Boston, New York City, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tacoma, WA. A map listing the events, including time and place details, is available here.

BRUCE FEIN, bruce at thelichfieldgroup.com
Fein was deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and is author of “Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy.” He said today: “The NDAA proves that a people of sheep invites a government of wolves.” He will be among the participants at today’s news conference. Others include David Cole, professor at Georgetown University Law Center; author of “Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror,” and Sue Udry, executive director, Defending Dissent Foundation. For details, see.

“The 10 Greediest Americans of 2011”

SAM PIZZIGATI, editor at toomuchonline.org,
Pizzigati edits “Too Much” the weekly Institute for Policy Studies newsletter on excess and inequality. He just wrote the piece “The 10 Greediest Americans of 2011,’ which lists the following:

10. Michael T. Duke, Wal-Mart CEO: Duke takes home his millions — $18.7 million in the company’s latest fiscal year — by squeezing workers. He ended “premium pay” for the hours Wal-Mart workers have to put in on Sundays, eliminated profit-sharing, sheared health care benefits, and cut staffing levels so low, Retailing Today reports, that customers sometimes can’t find shopping carts because the store where they’re shopping has no employees available to collect carts from the parking lot.

9. Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl CEO: The Sugar Bowl, one of college football’s top four postseason games, enjoys tax-exempt status and regularly touts its contributions to good causes. But Hoolahan’s favorite cause may be his own. He took home just under $600,000 in 2009, almost quadruple his $160,500 paycheck for the same job 13 years earlier. Meanwhile, the Sugar Bowl and its three “Bowl Championship Series” partners are contributing to charity only 20 cents from every $10 in revenue, the Arizona Republic reports.

8. Robert Iger, Disney CEO: His annual compensation topped $28 million last year, a neat 35-percent increase. In October, Iger picked up a new pay deal that extends his CEO contract into 2015 and then adds on a cushy final year as Disney’s “executive chairman” — at $2.5 million — to help him make the transition into retirement.

7. Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar CEO: In 2009, a year that saw only three U.S. corporations lay off more workers than Caterpillar, its CEO took home just under $3 million. His 2010 paycheck soared to $10.4 million. Caterpillar workers, meanwhile, have a new six-year contract that excludes wage increases and raises health care premiums.

6. William Weldon, Johnson & Johnson CEO: Weldon “restructured” this health care giant in 2007, slashing its quality-control program. For the next two years, a hiring freeze made replacing vacant quality positions almost impossible. In 2009, a flood of recalls began for company products from contact lenses to hip implants, but Weldon took home $25.6 million anyway. After those recalls and assorted other scandals, the company did finally trim his annual pay — to $23.2 million.

5. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO: In 2007, on the eve of the meltdown banks like Goldman did so much to hasten, Blankfein collected a $68-million bonus, the largest in Wall Street history. In 2011, Blankfein had a chance to hit the restart button. He didn’t. In April, Goldman Sachs revealed that Blankfein, after going two years without a cash bonus, had gobbled up $5.4 million in bonus cash for the bank’s latest fiscal year. And plenty more in stock and salary. His total pay: $19 million, about double his pay the year before.

4. Alan Mulally, Ford Motor CEO: After losing $30 billion over three years, Ford has gained back $9.3 billion. In reward, Ford handed Mulally $56.5 million in stock and then, a month later, announced that he pulled down an additional $26.5 million last year. That amounted to 910 times the pay of entry-level Ford workers.

3. Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO: The top exec at business software giant Oracle collected $77.6 million for the fiscal year that ended this past May 31.That piece of change added less than two-tenths of 1 percent to Ellison’s $39.5 billion personal fortune, the world’s fifth largest.

2. Don Blankenship, Former Massey Energy CEO: West Virginia investigators found Massey management directly to blame for the 2010 blast that left 29 miners dead at the company’s Upper Big Branch coal mine. Massey, the report charged, had nurtured a “culture bent on production at the expense of safety.” That culture paid off handsomely for Blankenship. He pocketed $38.2 million from 2007 through 2009, after raking in $34 million in 2005, and retired with a $5.7-million pension and $12 million in severance.

1. Mark Pincus, Zynga CEO: High-tech start-ups like the online social gaming empire Zynga typically attract talent by offering shares of stock. But Pincus had apparently concluded, with a multi-billion-dollar IPO pending, that he had given away too many shares. Pincus demanded that various employees “give back not-yet-vested stock or face termination,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Climate Talks Agreement a “Roadmap to Disaster”

Video stream of protests at the Climate talks from today.

The Guardian is providing live coverage.

MICHAEL DORSEY,  michael.dorsey at dartmouth.edu,
Professor at the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College, Dorsey said this afternoon: “This current draft text in circulation is a death sentence for Africa. Countries may not even examine progress until 2015.  The are not obliged to do anything until AFTER 2020.  This agreement is a roadmap to disaster.”  Dorsey appeared on Democracy Now this morning.

ANNE PETERMANN, annep at riseup.net,
JEFF CONANT,  jc at globaljusticeecology.org
Petermann is the executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project. She and two other delegates were removed from the conference today. Petermann states they had refused to moved and were carried out, explaining that the climate talks are now dominated by corporate interests and that civil society has been blocked out.

JANET REDMAN, janet at ips-dc.org
DAPHNE WYSHAM, [in DC] via Lacy MacAuley, Institute for Policy Studies, lacy at ips-dc.org
Redman and Wysham are co-directors of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies. Redman said today: “The situation here in Durban is dire. The lives of hundreds of millions of people hang in the balance of deals being brokered now behind closed doors. The latest we’re hearing is that the leaders of developing countries are outright rejecting proposals that kill the legally binding treaty to reduce climate pollution — the Kyoto Protocol. But the U.S. and European countries are dangling the promise of millions of dollars to get countries most vulnerable to climate impacts not to push back on a new mandate that does away with equity. Impoverished countries will get an empty shell of a Green Climate Fund with no money. Meanwhile leaders of peoples’ movements from across the African continent, from low-lying island countries and from communities in the high Andes, are calling on delegates not to sign a death sentence for the world’s climate-vulnerable communities. What we need now is a solution to the climate crisis that deals in ecological reality, not corporate interests and power politics.”

Wysham has been attending climate summits regularly since 1997.  View a recent interview with Wysham on the Durban summit with The Real News.

Wysham said today: “Occupy fever took over the climate negotiations, on the final day of talks in Durban: Protestors briefly shut down the plenary, calling out the richest 1%, including the polluters, for gambling with everyone’s future by advancing a deal that is so bad–allowing tempertaures to rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit– that the best that can happen is a collapse and total rejection of the process. The good news is, despite U.S. government and polluter’s obstructionism at all levels, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are down 7 percent since 2007. This has nothing to do with national or international agreements made by the 1% and everything to do with grassroots mobilization by the 99%, non-violent civil disobedience, and support for strong regulations. In addition to international solidarity with the poorest in the developing world, this is the way forward.”