News Release Archive - 2015

“Rahm Emanuel Should Resign Now”

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MSNBC reports: “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday fiercely resisted calls to follow his police superintendent in stepping down, even as the city continues to roil over the dashcam video released last week showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot by police.”

JAMANI MONTAGUE,  Jamani.Montague at emory.edu
Montague is a student at Emory University and is an associate with the the group RootsAction.org, which organized a petition — “Rahm Emanuel Should Resign Now” — that has gotten 15,000 signatures and states: “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel oversaw the withholding from public view — for more than a year — of a video of a police murder of a teenager.

“The police officer who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, continuing to shoot his motionless body on the ground, has now been indicted for first-degree murder.

The video was kept secret for 13 months [emphasis in original], during which time Emanuel never corrected the blatant lies by the Chicago Police Department that maintained the victim had lunged at the police with a knife just before he was shot. The video shows this to have been a complete fabrication.

“A mayor willing to cover for the murder of his constituent is no mayor at all.”

ERICA MEINERS, ermeiner at neiu.edu
Meiners professor of educational inquiry and curriculum studies at Northeastern Illinois University.

She said today: “From closing public schools in black and brown communities, to actively supporting the corrupt ‘status quo’ of Chicago policing that kills, the mayor must resign.

“Chicago’s Black youth mobilizations such as the Black Youth Project, labor unions like Chicago’s Teacher Union, community organizations such as Kenwood Oakland Community Organization — these are Chicago’s leadership who are making a just world.”

As Britain Votes on War, Western Interests Eyeing Syria’s Resources, Dismemberment

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Today, the House of Commons is having an all-day debate on extending British bombing in Iraq into Syria as well. [BBC livefeed] Prime Minister David Cameron is forcing a vote tonight. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn is opposing the bombing, but has called for a “free vote” — effectively giving greater leeway for Labor MPs to defect.

NAFEEZ AHMED, [in London] iprdoffice at gmail.com, @NafeezAhmed
An independent, London-based investigative reporter, Ahmed is a columnist with Middle East Eye. His books include A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization.

Ahmed just wrote the piece “Western firms primed to cash in on Syria’s oil and gas ‘frontier’,” which states: “U.S., British, French, Israeli and other energy interests could be prime beneficiaries of military operations in Iraq and Syria designed to rollback the power of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) and, potentially, the Bashar al-Assad regime. A study for a global oil services company backed by the French government and linked to Britain’s Tory-led administration, published during the height of the Arab Spring, hailed the significant ‘hydrocarbon potential’ of Syria’s offshore resources. … In early November, as Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook reports, ‘Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took advantage of a private meeting… with Barack Obama — their first in 13 months — to raise the possibility of dismembering Syria.'”

Ahmed also recently wrote the piece “ISIS wants to destroy the ‘grey zone’. Here’s how we defend it,” which states: “Incumbent political elites keen to avoid accountability for a decade and a half of failure will use heightened public anxiety to push through more of the same. They will seek to avoid hard questions about past failures, while casting suspicion everywhere except the state itself, with a view to continue business-as-usual. And in a similar vein, the military-industrial complex, whose profits have come to depend symbiotically on perpetual war, wants to avoid awkward questions about lack of transparency and corrupt relationships with governments. They would much rather keep the trillion-dollar gravy train flowing out of the public purse. …

“ISIS recognizes that it has only marginal support among Muslims around the world. The only way it can accelerate recruitment and strengthen its territorial ambitions is twofold: firstly, demonstrating to Islamist jihadist networks that there is now only one credible terror game in town capable of pulling off spectacular terrorist attacks in the heart of the west, and two, by deteriorating conditions of life for Muslims all over the world to draw them into joining or supporting ISIS.”

Report: 20 Wealthiest in U.S. Own More than Bottom Half

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CHUCK COLLINS, chuckcollins7 at me.com
JOSH HOXIE, josh at ips-dc.org
Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and long-time inequality activist. Hoxie is the director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the group. The two are co-authors of the just-released report “Billionaire Bonanza: the Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us,” which finds:

“America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet — ­now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.”

Some additional findings from the report:

* “The wealthiest 100 households now own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the United States. Among the Forbes 400, just two individuals are African American ­– Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith.

* “The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population. Just five members of the Forbes 400 are Latino including Jorge Perez, Arturo Moreno, and three members of the Santo Domingo family.

* “With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.

* “The median American family has a net worth of $81,000. The Forbes 400 own more wealth than 36 million of these typical American families. That’s as many households in the United States that own cats.

The report proposes several solutions to close the growing gap between the ultra wealthy and the rest of the country. These policies include closing offshore tax havens and billionaire loopholes in the tax code that the wealthy exploit to hide their wealth.

“Our report underscores the need for a direct tax on wealth to slow and reverse these dangerous concentrations of wealth,” said Hoxie.

Also see:

The Guardian, “Forbes list ‘fat cats” have more money than all regular cat owners in America.”

David Cay Johnston, Al Jazeera: “The wealthiest dozen Americans own more than the bottom half.”

Forbes, “Well Of Course The Rich List Own More Than All Cat Owners.”

Why Blue Collar Whites Are Dying

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BARBARA EHRENREICH, barbara.ehrenreich at gmail.com, @econhardship
Ehrenreich is founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. She just wrote the piece, “Dead, White, and Blue: The Great Die-Off of America’s Blue Collar Whites,” for TomDispatch, which states: “The white working class, which usually inspires liberal concern only for its paradoxical, Republican-leaning voting habits, has recently become newsworthy for something else: according to economist Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the winner of the latest Nobel Prize in economics, its members in the 45- to 54-year-old age group are dying at an immoderate rate. While the lifespan of affluent whites continues to lengthen, the lifespan of poor whites has been shrinking. As a result, in just the last four years, the gap between poor white men and wealthier ones has widened by up to four years. The New York Times summed up the Deaton and Case study with this headline: ‘Income Gap, Meet the Longevity Gap.’

“This was not supposed to happen. For almost a century, the comforting American narrative was that better nutrition and medical care would guarantee longer lives for all. So the great blue-collar die-off has come out of the blue and is, as the Wall Street Journal says, ‘startling.’

“It was especially not supposed to happen to whites who, in relation to people of color, have long had the advantage of higher earnings, better access to health care, safer neighborhoods, and of course freedom from the daily insults and harms inflicted on the darker-skinned. There has also been a major racial gap in longevity — 5.3 years between white and black men and 3.8 years between white and black women — though, hardly noticed, it has been narrowing for the last two decades. Only whites, however, are now dying off in unexpectedly large numbers in middle age, their excess deaths accounted for by suicide, alcoholism, and drug (usually opiate) addiction. …

“I grew up in an America where a man with a strong back — and better yet, a strong union — could reasonably expect to support a family on his own without a college degree. In 2015, those jobs are long gone, leaving only the kind of work once relegated to women and people of color available in areas like retail, landscaping, and delivery-truck driving. This means that those in the bottom 20 percent of white income distribution face material circumstances like those long familiar to poor blacks, including erratic employment and crowded, hazardous living spaces. …

“Poor whites always had the comfort of knowing that someone was worse off and more despised than they were; racial subjugation was the ground under their feet, the rock they stood upon, even when their own situation was deteriorating. …

“It’s easy for the liberal intelligentsia to feel righteous in their disgust for lower-class white racism, but the college-educated elite that produces the intelligentsia is in trouble, too, with diminishing prospects and an ever-slipperier slope for the young. Whole professions have fallen on hard times, from college teaching to journalism and the law. One of the worst mistakes this relative elite could make is to try to pump up its own pride by hating on those — of any color or ethnicity — who are falling even faster.”

Ehrenreich is author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (now in a 10th anniversary edition with a new afterword) and most recently the autobiographical Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything.

Paris Talks, Paris Myths

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The program “Democracy Now,” broadcasting live from Paris for the course of the two-week climate conference, reports: “Protests continue to be banned across France. French President François Hollande condemned protesters … even though ‘Democracy Now’ video footage shows the police, not the protests, trampling on the candles and flowers commemorating those killed in the Nov. 13 attacks.” [see 3:00 into video.]

MARY LOU MALIG, marylouisemalig at globalforestcoalition.org, @gfc123
Malig is a researcher, trade analyst, and campaigns coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, an organization that coordinates campaigns for socially just and effective forest policy and the rights of indigenous and other forest peoples. The group recently released a report titled “Land, Forests and Hot Air,” which “highlights that current carbon accounting rules are too flexible, confusing and allowing several forms of cheating.” Said Malig: “There are no effective methodologies to comprehensively account for indirect land use change … As a result, such accounting mechanisms … provide incentives for the expansion of harmful monoculture tree plantations.”

Last month, she wrote the piece “The Coming Tragedy of Paris: A disastrous climate deal that will see the planet burn.” She co-authored the book The Anti-Development State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines. See some of her papers — including “Tailored for Sharks” about how “rules are tailored and public interest surrendered to suit corporate interests” — here.

PREETI SHEKAR, preetishekar at gmail.com, @ggjalliance
Shakar is the media coordinator for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a national alliance of U.S.-based grassroots organizing groups organizing to build “an agenda for power for working and poor people and communities of color,” and media consultant for the It Takes Roots Delegation. The group’s statement reads: “The It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm delegation of over 100 frontline leaders from climate-impacted communities across the U.S. and Canada, including the Arctic, united under the slogan: ‘No War, No Warming — Build an Economy for People and Planet.’ … Climate justice seeks to address much more than greenhouse gas emissions, but the root systemic causes of climate change itself. Climate justice is about social and economic justice, and how democratic, peaceful and equitable solutions, not military violence, best serve the interests of humanity. The fossil fuel economy is a driver of these multi-faceted crises facing the world: causing resource wars; polluting our air, water and land; creating illness and death to people and of ecosystems; privatization of nature …”

CASSANDRA SMITHIES, baad_eyes at yahoo.com
Smithies is a translator and organizer working closely with Indigenous Peoples from the Americas and Africa on rights, forest protection, and impacts of climate change on front line communities.

SHANNON GIBSON, smgibson at usc.edu
Gibson is an assistant professor of international relations at the University of Southern California whose work focuses on the role of civil and “uncivil” society participation in transnational politics. She leaves for the Paris climate talks this weekend.

“The Real Reason for Turkey’s Shoot-Down of the Russian Jet”

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Reuters reports: “U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Syria crisis and the situation in Ukraine during a meeting Monday on the sidelines of the climate summit in Paris, a White House official said.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
An investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, Porter just wrote the piece, “The real reason for Turkey’s shoot-down of the Russian jet,” for Middle East Eye, which states: “Although the Obama administration is not about to admit it, the data already available supports the Russian assertion that the Turkish shoot-down was, as Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted, an ‘ambush’ that had been carefully prepared in advance.

“The central Turkish claim that its F-16 pilots had warned the two Russian aircraft 10 times during a period of five minutes actually is the primary clue that Turkey was not telling the truth about the shoot-down. …

“Close analysis of both the Turkish and Russian images of the radar path of the Russian jets indicates that the earliest point at which either of the Russian planes was on a path that might have been interpreted as taking it into Turkish airspace was roughly 16 miles from the Turkish border – meaning that it was only a minute and 20 seconds away from the border. …

“Furthermore according to both versions of the flight path, five minutes before the shoot-down the Russian planes would have been flying eastward — away from the Turkish border.

“If the Turkish pilots actually began warning the Russian jets five minutes before the shoot-down, therefore, they were doing so long before the planes were even headed in the general direction of the small projection of the Turkish border in Northern Latakia province….

“The Turkish shoot-down was thus in essence an effort to dissuade the Russians from continuing their operations in the area against al-Nusra Front and its allies, using not one but two distinct pretexts: on one hand a very dubious charge of a Russian border penetration for NATO allies, and on the other, a charge of bombing Turkmen civilians for the Turkish domestic audience.

“The Obama administration’s reluctance to address the specific issue of where the plane was shot down indicates that it is well aware of that fact. But the administration is far too committed to its policy of working with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to force regime change to reveal the truth about the incident.”

 

Turkish Shootdown: “Planned Provocation”?

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JOHN QUIGLEY,Quigley.2 at osu.edu
Professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley has written extensively about both the Mideast and Russia. His books include The Ruses for War: American Interventionism Since World War II.

He said today: “Turkey claims it warned the Russian plane ten times, but the maps they released indicate that the Russian planes flew into a very small area of Turkey that juts into Syria. So, if Turkey is telling the truth, the fastest way for the Russian plane to get out would have been to keep going straight ahead. So that part of the Turkey story and justification for shooting down the Russian planes doesn’t add up.

“More broadly, the entire situation seems to be isolating the U.S. since it’s the most powerful nation continuing to insist on the removal of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. Putin’s position that countries should come together to defeat ISIS plays much better globally.”

Wikileaks notes: “’17 seconds’ — how long Russian jet spent in Turkish airspace according to Turkey’s letter to UN Security Council.” See the letter from the Turkish ambassador.

From the British Telegraph: “Turkey shooting down plane was ‘planned provocation’ says Russia, as rescued pilot claims he had no warning,”

See from Moon of Alabama: “The Context Of Yesterday’s Turkish Attack Against The Russian Jet.”

“Myth of Thanksgiving” and Mideast Policy Today

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“American Progress” by John Gast, 1872

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro at pacbell.net@rdunbaro
Dunbar-Ortiz is author or editor of seven books, including An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. She wrote the piece “The Myth of Thanksgiving.” She said today: “Once again, we find Europeans and U.S. Americans as victims of irrational and evil forces. Somehow, the endless U.S. and NATO aggressive wars and threats of war, the terror created by continued bombing and drone strikes in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, with their majority Muslim populations, fade into the background, as if they started these wars. How dare anyone strike back at the god-given Christian empire? The centuries-long Christian Crusades against Muslims, then more centuries of European colonization of Muslim countries, with imperialist ventures and wars increasingly lead by the U.S. in the 20th century, are retroactively justified by the intentional killing of 149 French civilians. This is an old story and routine of Western aggression imperialism. The ‘weaponization of grief,’ as this counterinsurgent war tactic has been called, is one of the lowest forms of deception.

“Thanksgiving, is a prototype of that tactic — the enduring myth of grieving religious dissidents (of course accompanied by a mercenary security detail larger than their own numbers) invaded and occupied another people’s territory, and those merciless savages whose territory it was were not properly appreciative despite the intruders alleged kindness. A few years later, with more boat loads of religious dissidents arriving and expropriating more farms and food supplies, the Indigenous communities regrouped and began to fight back, and the ‘weaponization of grief’ took hold justifying settler violence and theft of land and resources. This origin story of the United States, repeated in the militaristic march across North America, as well as overseas, forms the core of U.S. counterinsurgency, regeneration through violence, which produces responses that allows the aggressor to assume the mantel of the aggrieved. Anyone who questions this stance and brings up history, especially since 9/11, is slapped down and stomped on.”

Debunking Trump — and his Critics — on 9/11 and Torture

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Statements by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — on post-9/11 celebrations and on torture “working” — have drawn the ire of many. However, the following experts on each of these two issues show how both Trump and many of his political detractors are missing the underlying substance:

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM, cketcham99 at mindspring.com
Trump has drawn criticism for falsely claiming that “There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.” Ketcham, an investigative reporter whose work has appeared in many publications including Harper’sVanity Fair, Vice, and GQ and said today: “Trump’s ignorant conflation unwittingly opens the door for the American public to revisit one of the most important and least discussed mysteries of 9/11: the possibility that Israeli spies were tracking the hijackers prior to the attacks.” Ketcham notes that virtually none of those taking issue with Trump’s remarks are noting the underlying factual story that he seems to be conflating, or, if they are, the are not representing the facts accurately. He wrote the piece “The Israeli ‘Art Student’ Mystery” for Salon.

Ketcham has written extensively about one of the major unexplained aspects of 9/11. He wrote the piece “What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks” for Counterpunch in 2007 [PDF]. Shortly after, Ketcham was on “Democracy Now” and host Amy Goodman noted: “Freelance journalist Christopher Ketcham has just published a comprehensive piece … The article highlights various interconnected stories: the five Israeli ‘movers’ who witnesses say were cheering after the first plane struck the World Trade Center; the so-called Israeli art students who were living in concentrated areas where hijackers were living in the United States; and how two of the hijackers ended up on the watchlist weeks before 9/11.”

JASON LEOPOLD, jasonleopold at gmail.com, @JasonLeopold
Trump has recently said: “Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”

Senior investigative reporter at Vice, Leopold said today: “The problem over the last 13 years is that the general public has no idea how how torture actually ‘works.’ It doesn’t work to get information like in a fictional ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario — a terrorist would obviously just give you bad information. But, if you want to get false confessions, it absolutely works. It’s shown in notes from a CIA psychologist.” Leopold co-wrote the piece “CIA Psychologist’s Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush’s Torture Program.”

Leopold also co-wrote “‘Guidebook to False Confessions’: Key Document John Yoo Used to Draft Torture Memo Released.”

He added: “Torture techniques have been used in a way to force detainees to compel them to give false confessions. The techniques would get captors full control, including getting the captives to say things that the captors wanted to hear, like ‘Iraq has WMDs’ or ‘al-Qaeda is looking to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge’ — to use these techniques to justify going into war. It’s called exploitation.”

Leopold published Abu Zubaydah’s diaries for Al Jazeera America. Leopold notes that Abu Zubaydah “personally wrote that he lied to Pakistanis and told them what they wanted to hear when they tortured him using the same techniques CIA used in order to get torture to stop.” Leopold’s books include News Junkie and The Other Abu Zubaidah: From Hopeful Immigrant to FBI Informant.

Also, see “The Phony Torture Debate: Why Trump is Wrong about Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think” by Sam Husseini, which fleshes out the case of Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, who “confessed” that Iraq had WMDs to make the torture stop.

Tweets in a Time of Terror: Clinton and Carson Target Free Speech

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JILLIAN YORK, jillian at eff.org, @JillianCYork, @censored
York is a writer and activist whose work lies at the intersection of technology and policy. Based in Berlin, she is director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where she works on issues of free expression, privacy, and digital security. She is co-founder of onlinecensorship.org.

York recently co-wrote the piece “Tweets in the Time of Terror: U.S. Candidates Take Aim At Free Speech,” which states: “Both Ben Carson and Hillary Clinton, within a span of 24 hours, went on the record as saying that a necessary action in defeating ISIS is for social media platforms — on which much of our everyday speech takes place — to shut down speech. Free speech stands at the core of the American ethos, but it seems two of the country’s leading presidential candidates are all too willing — even eager — to limit that core civil liberty. …

“‘We must not allow [ISIS’] macabre murder videos and threats to be promoted anywhere,’ said Carson, referencing the hacker group Anonymous as an inspiration for his policy. Clinton’s statement suggested the potential for censorship beyond the speech of terrorists: ‘There is no doubt we have to do a better job contesting online space, including websites and chat rooms where jihadists communicate with followers,’ she said. In a Washington Post op-ed, Carson proposes an increase in government technical surveillance. ‘We can monitor social media by expanding the search algorithms already in place to safeguard against inappropriate behavior, including religious hate speech,’ he writes. ‘Once flagged, we can notify platform providers and encourage them to censor communications (and block users) that violate the terms of constructive discourse.’ …

“Advocating for privately-enforced domestic censorship in response to foreign attacks shows a fundamental proclivity for using external events to limit the freedoms of American citizens. One shudders to think of what response these candidates would advocate in the case of a terror attack on the American homeland. Any serious presidential candidate needs to show the American people how they would address the root causes of terrorism — not violate the integrity of the civil liberties of its own citizens. The American electorate must demand their candidates offer a thorough explanation for any attempt to compromise the free exchange of ideas that social media affords us just because it’s a low-hanging fruit.”

Onlinecensorship.org notes: “Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google+ have an outsized impact in our social lives. We treat these platforms as a ‘public sphere,’ using them to discuss issues both controversial and menial, to connect with friends far and near, and to engage in activism and debate. But while these platforms may be used by the public, they’re ultimately owned by private companies with their own rules and systems of governance that control — and in some cases, censor — users’ content.”

For background and debate on related issues, see from Glenn Greenwald: “Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the Arbiters of What We See and Read?” and “Greenwald’s Free Speech Absolutism and Twitter’s Foley Ban” by @RancidTarzie.