News Release Archive - 2017

Net Neutrality Protests to Hit Verizon Stores During Holiday Shopping Season

Share

[Edward S. Herman, a longtime-supporter of the Institute for Public Accuracy, died recently. See Washington Post obituary. He was a noted critic of corporate power, including media giants. Among his books were The Myth of the Liberal Media and (with Noam Chomsky) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. See also a series of his interviews with The Real News from 2012.]

The Chicago Tribune reports today: “End of net neutrality rules said to be near as FCC plans to vote.”

MARY ALICE CRIM, via Tim Karr, tkarr at freepress.net, @freepress

Mary Alice Crim is the Free Press Action Fund’s field director. The group stated today: “Internet users outraged by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut Net Neutrality are planning to protest at Verizon retail stores across the country on Thursday, Dec. 7, one week before an expected vote at the FCC. In some cities, protesters will march from Verizon stores to lawmakers’ offices.

“The protests will highlight the company’s role lobbying to kill rules that prevent telecom giants from charging extra fees, engaging in censorship, or controlling what internet users see and do through discriminatory throttling. Protesters will carry signs calling on their members of Congress to speak out against Verizon’s attacks on Net Neutrality and publicly oppose the FCC’s plan, which is expected to be released this week.

“See the website announcing the protests here: VerizonProtests.com.

“Ajit Pai’s plan is expected to contain a ‘total repeal’ of Net Neutrality protections, posing a grave threat to the future of freedom of expression, access to information, and small businesses particularly for communities of color and low income communities.” See full statement.

“60 Minutes” Highlights Saudi Atrocity in Yemen, Ignores U.S. Role in It

Share

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Independent investigative journalist Porter has written many pieces on Yemen including “The U.S. Provided Cover for the Saudi Starvation Strategy in Yemen.” He said today: “The political pressure on Trump to break with [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is growing rapidly. ’60 Minutes’ had the first hard-hitting U.S. television report on the atrocity in Yemen with heart-rending footage of starving children and clear identification of Saudi responsibility. … What’s missing from the segment of course is U.S. responsibility for the Saudi war. Nevertheless the politics of the issue are now changing rapidly.” See “60 Minutes” segment from Sunday night here.

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 at mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818
Al-Adeimi is a doctoral candidate and instructor at Harvard University. She recently wrote the piece “Only Americans Can Stop America’s War on Yemen,” which states: “Yemen continues to suffer in silence as the world turns away from its ongoing misery. Despite two and a half years of brutal war, the average American remains oblivious to the inconvenient truth that the United States has been helping Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates destroy a sovereign country that posed a threat to no one. While rich Arab states bombard the Middle East’s poorest country, creating the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and an unprecedented cholera outbreak, our government (starting with the Obama administration and continuing with Trump’s) has continued to support them not only through the sale of weapons, but also through mid-air refueling, targeting intelligence, and other logistical support.”

DEREK DAVISON, davisond13 at gmail.com, @dwdavison9318
Davison is a Washington-based researcher and writer on international affairs and American politics. He previously worked in the Persian Gulf for The RAND Corporation.He just wrote the piece “‘60 Minutes’ Imagines A Different War In Yemen,” which states: “It is no exaggeration to say that the Saudi operation in Yemen depends on this ongoing logistical support from the U.S. It also depends on arms, like American cluster bombs and British missiles, that U.S. and U.K. arms dealers eagerly sell to the Saudis. Which means that it’s within American and British power to end this atrocity, to end the starvation, to force the Saudis to reopen the entire country to humanitarian aid. But whether it’s because they believe Saudi propaganda about Iran or they’re simply too invested in maintaining their toxic but very lucrative relationships with the Saudi monarchy, neither Washington nor London has taken any substantive steps to end or even reduce their involvement in immiserating the Yemeni people.

“Which somehow all seems to have escaped ’60 Minutes,’ which devoted not so much as a single sentence of its Yemen segment to explaining how America and Britain are partly responsible for the many images of starving children their viewers were seeing on Sunday night. This is certainly not a new phenomenon in Western media, which has made a habit of downplaying or outright ignoring American and British involvement in Yemen. But it is still a stunning omission. The program’s American audience deserves to know that its own government in part created the atrocities that flashed by on the screen. In failing to inform them of that fact, ’60 Minutes’ did its viewers, and the people of Yemen, a tremendous disservice.”

Facebook or Russia: Who’s the Real Threat?

Share

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone: “RIP Edward Herman, Who Co-Wrote a Book That’s Now More Important Than Ever,” that: “Edward Herman, the co-author (with Noam Chomsky) of Manufacturing Consent, has died. He was 92. His work has never been more relevant. Manufacturing Consent was a kind of bible of media criticism for a generation of dissident thinkers.”

Herman, a strong supporter of the Institute for Public Accuracy, wrote many books including The Real Terror Network and, with IPA board member Robert W. McChesney, The Global Media: The Missionaries of Global Capitalism. His last piece was “Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies: The New York Times, 1917–2017” for Monthly Review.

Taibbi writes that a new Manufacturing Consent is needed to include an examination of the increasing power of giant internet firms: “A small handful of monopolistic tech companies like Facebook have life-or-death power over media companies. They can steer traffic wherever they please simply by tweaking their algorithms. Firms that don’t themselves create news content wield this monstrous influence.”

YASHA LEVINE, mail at yashalevine.com, @yashalevine
Levine is an investigative journalist and author of the forthcoming Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet. His previous books include The Koch Brothers: A Short History. He was recently interviewed by The Real News for the segment “Congress’s ‘Show Trial’ of Big Tech over Russia.”

Levine said: “I still think that for the most part it’s not clear who is paying for those ads because of the limited information that we’re getting from Facebook and from Twitter — that these ads are bought by ‘Russia-linked’ accounts. ‘Russia-linked’ accounts is a very hazy category. According to Twitter’s own testimony, ‘Russia-linked’ could mean any account that had logged in from a Russian IP address. It could mean any account that had used Cyrillic in its Twitter handle or tweeted in Russian. It could be any account that is in any way, however tangentially, tied to the Russian territory. So, it doesn’t have to be tied to the Russian government. … I would be considered a ‘Russia-linked’ account, because I had reported from Russia, obviously, and I spent about eight months in Russia last winter, logging into Twitter every day from a Russian IP address, and tweeting about Russian events and tweeting about events from a perspective that was critical of American foreign policy.”

Levine tweeted in September: “Facebook censored my post on Morgan Freeman’s call for war with Russia, provided no explanation.”

Levine added: “The Senate hearing basically had lawyers of the biggest technology [firms] in America going down the line, pledging their allegiance to America and to protect America and doing everything they could to prevent foreign meddling and foreign influence in American society. This is coming from companies that have, for years, told the world, have told countries like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and China that their platforms are totally politically neutral and that they’re in no way connected to the U.S. government or to the goals of the bigger national security state in America’s foreign policy apparatus.

“What Silicon Valley has done here is completely ditched that idea. … And they’re doing it to prevent having to open up and to be honest about their business practices, because I think there’s a lot that they’re afraid will get out about the way that they make money.”

Inaugural Prosecutions: Criminalizing Protest and Journalism?

Share

The New York Times just published the piece “Journalist Swept Up in Inauguration Day Arrests Faces Trial.” See from Camille Fassett of the Freedom of the Press Foundation: “Prosecuting journalists who covered Inauguration Day protests endangers press freedom and the First Amendment.”

SUE UDRY, CHIP GIBBONS, [in D.C.] chip at rightsanddissent.org, @bordc
Trials of activists and journalists surrounding protests during the inaugural in January begin this week.

Udry is executive director and Gibbons is legislative and policy counsel with the group Defending Rights and Dissent, which put out the recent statement: “Political Expression Is Not A Conspiracy.” The piece states: “The DOJ is turning political expression into conspiracy and free assembly into a crime.

“They are using a shocking legal theory: if you attend a march where other individuals engage in vandalism you are collectively liable for their acts and should face decades in prison. Ditto if you’re a journalist who is merely covering the event.” Gibbons recently wrote the piece “The Prosecution of Inauguration-Day Protesters Is a Threat to Dissent” for The Nation.

In a letter this week to U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, Defending Rights and Dissent and a host of other groups wrote: “On January 20, 2017, some individuals allegedly engaged in property destruction during a protest. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), which was present at the time, did not immediately respond, but continued to follow the march. About 30 minutes into the march, the MPD engaged in a mass arrest of everyone in the vicinity of the protest. Well over 200 people in total were arrested, including several journalists attempting to cover the event. According to a report from the D.C. Office of Police Complaints (OPC), ‘it seems that proximity to the area where property damage occurred was a primary factor’ in the arrests. It was during this arrest [that] journalists [Aaron] Cantú and [Alexei] Wood were swept up, along with other journalists, legal observers, and protesters who had not damaged any property.”

“McCarthyism Inc: Hyping Russian Threats”

Share

MAX BLUMENTHAL, via Ilana at alternet.org, @MaxBlumenthal
Blumenthal is senior editor of AlterNet’s Grayzone Project and co-host of the Moderate Rebels podcast. He just wrote a pair of articles: “Meet Clint Watts, a Dubious Russia Meddling ‘Expert’ Lobbying the U.S. Government to ‘Quell Information Rebellions’” and “McCarthyism Inc: Introducing the Counter-Terror ‘Experts’ Hyping Russian Threats and Undermining Our Civil Liberties.”

Blumenthal summarizes some of his findings:

“The New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. Congress have promoted a bipartisan outfit called the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which has alleged sinister Russian influence over everything from Black Lives Matter to NFL protests. The group maintains a dashboard that claims to track Russian influence on social media,” but Blumenthal has revealed the “initiative as a de facto blacklist aimed at suppressing dissident media.”

“The Alliance for Securing Democracy is advised by a coalition of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, from Bill Kristol to former CIA director and Clinton surrogate Michael Morrell. The group’s research is handled by even sketchier characters, like Andrew Weisburd, a right-wing homophobic, anti-Muslim activist with a long record of online harassment.

“After publishing murderous and homophobic fantasies about Glenn Greenwald on Twitter, Weisburd boasted about listing Greenwald’s outlet, The Intercept, as a vehicle for Kremlin influence. The Alliance for Securing Democracy is currently sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

“Another Securing Democracy fellow, Clint Watts, has urged American intelligence agencies to encourage jihadists to carry out terrorist attacks against Russia and Iran.

“During testimony this month to Congress, Watts called on the U.S. government to ‘quell information rebellions’ and lobbied for ‘nutritional labels’ on online media.” Blumenthal’s report suggests that “the campaign against Russian meddling aims at nothing less than censorship of dissident media.”

[Note: Longtime friend of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Edward S. Herman has died. His books included Manufacturing Consent (with Noam Chomsky), The Real Terror Network and The Global Media (with IPA board member Robert McChesney). His latest piece was “Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies” for Monthly Review. See a series of interviews with The Real News.]

Alex Azar at HHS: “Big Pharma’s Coup”

Share

Today President Donald Trump nominated Alex Azar to be the next U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar served for five years as president of Lilly USA, LLC, the largest affiliate of global biopharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly and Company.

ROBERT WEISSMAN, via Don Owens, dowens at citizen.org;
Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen
President of Public Citizen, Weissman said today: “Just weeks after denouncing ‘out-of-control’ prescription prices, President Donald Trump shows he doesn’t mean it by nominating a former pharmaceutical company executive to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If Alex Azar’s nomination is confirmed, then Big Pharma’s coup d’etat in the health care sphere will be virtually complete.

“In his public statements, Alex Azar has made clear that he is opposed to measures to restrain prescription companies’ profiteering and limit improper marketing, while favoring weaker safety approval standards.

“Americans understand, passionately, that price gouging leads to rationing of care. It is unethical and must end. Even President Trump says so. But it is highly unlikely that a pharmaceutical company executive who has made passionate arguments against price restraints is going to advance real reform. Much more likely is that he serves as the instrument by which Big Pharma aims to defend its monopolies and unaffordable prices.

“The swamp only gets worse. Tom Price supported Big Pharma in the U.S. Congress. Now apparently Trump has decided to cut out the middleman and let a pharmaceutical executive literally run the federal department that protects the health of all Americans.”

Not Kremlin Propaganda: Neo-Nazis in Ukraine

Share

Newsweek reports: “Poland Nationalist Rally With Neo-Nazi Slogans, Calls For ‘Islamic Holocaust’ Draws Biggest Crowd Ever.”

LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin at gmail.com
Golinkin is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee. Since the book’s release, he’s had pieces in the New York Times, the Washington Post and numerous other outlets.

He said today that the U.S. “has been ignoring Europe’s far right for way too long. We’re paying attention to Richard Spencer, when there are people across the Atlantic who make him look like a downright amateur. When I saw the Charlottesville images, all I could think of was ‘This is an echo of Europe.’

“Europe has some paramilitary groups with access to weapons and training. Azov Battalion in Ukraine is just one example. Hungary has been using ‘volunteers’ to monitor for refugees. (A few years ago they had an actual force, which was later disbanded.) Poland has been building ‘volunteer’ units as well. These are groups operating in nations which have far weaker democratic institutions compared to the U.S. That’s what is scary.”

He just wrote the piece “The Reality of Neo-Nazis in Ukraine is Far from Kremlin Propaganda” for The Hill.

Golinkin writes: “The accusations of being duped by Russia have even extended to Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), who cosponsored an amendment barring the U.S. from providing training and support to Azov in 2015. Some bloggers have gone on to insinuate Conyers was ‘snookered’ or, worse, doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding.”

In fact, Golinkin writes: “As the Trump administration mulls sending weapons to Ukraine, the question of far-right forces employed by the Kiev government has returned to the forefront. Some Western observers claim that there are no neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, chalking the assertion up to propaganda from Moscow. Unfortunately, they are sadly mistaken.

“There are indeed neo-Nazi formations in Ukraine. This has been overwhelmingly confirmed by nearly every major Western outlet. The fact that analysts are able to dismiss it as propaganda disseminated by Moscow is profoundly disturbing. It is especially disturbing given the current surge of neo-Nazis and white supremacists across the globe.

“The most infamous neo-Nazi group in Ukraine is the 3,000-strong Azov Battalion, founded in 2014. Prior to creating Azov, its commander, Andriy Biletsky, headed the neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine, members of which went on to form the core of Azov. Biletsky had stated that the mission of Ukraine is to ‘lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival … against the Semite-led Untermenschen.’…

“It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine mainstream media describing reports on Charlottesville as propaganda and questioning the motives of lawmakers who try to counter today’s alarming surge of white supremacy. Why shouldn’t we view Ukraine — a nation to which we send billions in foreign aid — in light of the same standards?”

Are Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S. Trying to Destabilize Lebanon?

Share

CBS News reports: “Saudi Arabia on Thursday ordered its citizens out of Lebanon in its first concrete action against the Mediterranean country, while officials in Beirut demanded the immediate return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who abruptly announced his resignation last week in a television appearance from the kingdom, where he has been holed up since.”

RANIA MASRI, [in Lebanon] rania.z.masri at gmail.com
An Arab-American academic based in Lebanon, Masri is available to discuss the workings of Lebanese politics. See her Twitter feed for regular updates, including translations of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speech today,  @rania_masri.

PAUL PILLAR, prp8 at georgetown.edu
Pillar was an analyst at the CIA for 28 years. He is now a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University and nonresident senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. He is a contributing editor to The National Interest, where he writes a blog.

His latest piece is “Saudi Arabia, Wellspring of Regional Instability,” which states: “The Trump administration is worse than oblivious to all this; it is stoking it. While the President tweets about which stock exchange should be used for an initial public offering of shares in Aramco, at least as important a figure is another princeling. That would be the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who reportedly has hit it off well with his fellow thirty-something MbS [Mohammad bin Salman] and visited the Saudi crown prince just days before the purge.”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052,
Silverstein writes on security and other issues for a number of outlets and blogs at Tikun Olam. His most recent piece is “Saudi Arabia and Israel: Looming Threat of Regional War,” which states: “The Saudi Crown Prince appears eager to ratchet up the conflict with Iran. Like Bibi Netanyahu, his … ally, he’s willing to exploit and manipulate hostility to a foreign enemy in order to bolster his own domestic stature. Given that he’s hellbent on establishing his own dominance in Saudi internal politics, such an enemy is very helpful in holding rivals at bay. [Mohammad] bin Salman also noted that Israel, with Saudi financial backing, orchestrated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists. This is the sort of decisive, brutal action the future Saudi monarch likes.

“Israel has responded in kind. Today, the foreign ministry sent an urgent cable to all diplomats demanding that they mouth a pro-Saudi line regarding the Hariri resignation. Israel Channel 10’s diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, tweeted the translated contents of the cable.”

Silverstein’s other recent pieces include “Black Cube Hired Israeli Actress to Find Dirt on Weinstein Accusers” and “Black Cube and Oligarchs in the Shadows.”

See by Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon, a piece on published at Al Jazeera about a bill targeting Hezbollah in the U.S. Congress.

Also see Sharmine Narwani’s recent piece in The American Conservative, “Hezbollah is Not a Threat to America,” which states: “The U.S. listed Hezbollah as a ‘terrorist organization’ 20 years ago this month. Most other states, as well as the United Nations Security Council, have not. Two weeks ago, at a State Department briefing on the Hezbollah ‘threat,’ National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen tried to paint a picture of an organization that was directing “terrorism acts worldwide” and posing a threat ‘to U.S. interests’ including ‘here in the homeland.'”

U.S. Backing Saudi Escalation of Starvation in Yemen

Share

Lee Fang in the Intercept’s “Watch Members of Congress Attempt to Explain Why They Won’t Vote on War in Yemen” writes: “The brutal war in Yemen has intensified in recent days, with the Saudi-led coalition backed by the United States increasing its bombing campaign and blockade of ports. Meanwhile, the architect of the war, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has launched a widespread purge of the government, while using a missile launched from Yemen as a pretext to threaten war with Iran.”

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 at mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818
Al-Adeimi, originally from Yemen, is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She said today: “While the Saudi-led coalition has continuously violated international humanitarian laws in Yemen, their total blockade of Yemen’s remaining point of entry for food and medicine, Hodeidah, means millions of Yemenis will now face famine and certain death. This latest move proves that, with the support of the United States, Saudi Arabia has placed a target on every man, woman, and child in Yemen.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Independent investigative journalist Porter has written many pieces on Yemen including “The U.S. Provided Cover for the Saudi Starvation Strategy in Yemen” and IPA news releases including “Breaking the Yemen Central Bank: Is Saudi Arabia Using Starvation as a Weapon?

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports: “In Yemen, 900,000 people have cholera.”

See joint statement on Yemen from a number of groups: “We are deeply disappointed that House leadership has again prevented a debate and vote on ending U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, which is largely responsible for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Paul R. Pillar just wrote the piece “How Saudi Arabia Sows Instability” for Consortium News: “The Trump administration is worse than oblivious to all this; it is stoking it. While the President tweets about which stock exchange should be used for an initial public offering of shares in Aramco, at least as important a figure is another princeling. That would be the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who reportedly has hit it off well with his fellow thirty-something MBS and visited the Saudi crown prince just days before the purge.”

Election Results: Healthcare and Polling

Share

The Washington Post reports: “Maine just resoundingly became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative.”
Early Exit Polls: Health Care Most Important Issue for Virginia Voters.”

NBC News reports: “Early Exit Polls: Health Care Most Important Issue for Virginia Voters.”

Numerous recent polls from Harvard-HarrisEconomist/YouGov, Pew and other polling organizations now show majority support for an expanded Medicare-for-all plan, often called “single payer.”

ANTHONY DiMAGGIO, ard416 at lehigh.edu
DiMaggio is an assistant professor of political science at Lehigh University and has written extensively on polling. His books include Selling War, Selling Hope and The Rise of the Tea Party.

He said today: “Medicaid/Medicare are/were important. With the limited choices of two neoliberal parties, people vacillate between one and the other. As one party gets into office (Republicans) people become more disenchanted with them, as in this case, because despite Trump’s rhetoric about improving healthcare in America, his agenda is the opposite. So people end up voting for people who have interests contrary to their own, because of the limited choices out there and the failures of both parties to represent the public. Then they go against them as the elected officials betray them. There’s a long history of this. … Health care has been THE ISSUE this year for Republicans, very high profile and lots of public mobilization against them.”

Background: Time reported in June: “President Trump Promised He Wouldn’t Touch Medicaid. The Senate Bill Includes Billions in Cuts.”